English lawyer Daniel Cousens has been based in Linklaters’ Warsaw office since 2006. He advises international corporates, private equity sponsors, and strategic investors on M&A deals and inbound and outbound investments in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Turkey, Ukraine, and Poland. Cousens co-heads Linklaters’ Turkey desk and is a member of the firm’s CEE and CIS teams. Before moving to Warsaw, he spent five years in Linklaters’ Moscow office. He studied English and French law at University College, London and Universite Aix-Marseille, and he speaks English, French, Russian, and Polish.
CEELM: Run us through your background, and how you came to Warsaw.
D.C.: It’s a bit of a long story but it probably starts with meeting my now wife, who is a Manchester Pole, when we were studying together in London. After my studies I worked and lived in (former Soviet) Georgia for two years on conflict resolution projects after which I realized I should probably come back and take up my offer of a training contract in the UK. Quite soon after qualifying we moved to Moscow – me to work with Linklaters, my wife to work with another firm. After five fun years in Russia the time came for a move and Warsaw was the obvious choice – we’ve been here 10 years now.
CEELM: Was it always your goal to work abroad?
D.C.: Probably – I certainly knew for sure when I qualified that I wanted to go abroad.
CEELM: You have a fairly diverse practice, with unique geographic coverage. Tell us briefly about your practice, and how you built it up over the years. And how did you come to co-head Linklaters’ Turkish desk?
D.C.: From Warsaw it made sense to concentrate on the wider region – Ukraine was the first country I concentrated on, mostly because it made most sense after my time in Russia and later I was lucky enough to be able to help build up our Turkey practice and, in particular, get to know and work with the Turkish corporate groups.
CEELM: There are obviously many differences among the various jurisdictions you focus on. Can you describe some of the more interesting/challenging differences?
D.C.: I think seeing the differences in culture and just the way things are done is one of the most interesting parts of my job – behavior which might be normal in one country could cause great offence in another.
CEELM: Focusing primarily on Poland, what cultural differences between that country and the UK strike you as most resonant and significant?
D.C.: After so long here and living in a mixed Polish / British family I’m not sure I can see the differences anymore! Joking apart of course there are lots of differences between the UK and Poland but I don’t think you can generalize– in both countries there are all sorts of people with all sorts of ways of looking at the world.
CEELM: You’ve lived in Poland for over a decade now. What significant changes have you seen in that time, in the legal industry and/or market?
D.C.: I think the legal market in Poland has got a bit more sophisticated, there are fewer international firms and fewer expats, all of which is probably healthy. Since 2008 the markets in the region seem to have been more volatile and we’ve all had to get used to operating a bit differently and doing different types of work – less M&A and more disputes in my case.
CEELM: What particular value do you think a senior expatriate lawyer in your role adds — both to a firm and to its clients?
D.C.: I’ll let the clients decide that!
CEELM: Outside of Poland, which CEE country do you enjoy visiting the most, and why?
D.C.: I really enjoy my time in Turkey, where the people are wonderful, the views are spectacular and the food is amazing.
CEELM: What’s your favorite place to take guests in Warsaw?
D.C.: I like to take guests out rowing on the Wisla – a wide, wild and empty river, right in the center of Warsaw.
This Article was originally published in Issue 4.6 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.