Petar Orlic and Branko Jankovic of NKO Partners sat down with CEE Legal Matters to talk about their unique paths to Partnership at the firm and share insights. Petar, who recently made the transition from London to Serbia in pursuit of new opportunities, shares his excitement about the vibrant and energetic business climate in the CEE region, while Branko, who rapidly ascended to the position of Partner at NKO, offers valuable tips on professional growth and the importance of staying open-minded and continuously learning.
CEELM: First of all, Petar, can you tell us what brought you to Serbia from London?
Orlic: Opportunities. That’s what brought me to Serbia – and what NKO had to offer.
I see Serbia and the whole CEE region as somewhere that offers many opportunities for business expansion and international trade. London, post Brexit, felt somewhat stagnant whereas Serbia feels vibrant and energetic. It is no coincidence that Serbia has attracted over EUR 42 billion of inward foreign direct investment since 2007. Since the implementation of key economic reforms, Serbia has grown into one of the premier investment locations in CEE and I want to take advantage of that!
CEELM: Why did NKO make sense to set up shop over others?
Orlic: NKO's exceptional reputation and expertise in the legal industry were key. I have known the co-founders, Djordje Nikolic and Djuro Otasevic, for over 15 years. Indeed, NKO was my go-to firm for legal advice when I was a Partner in London at various international law firms, such as Paul Hastings, Reed Smith, and Watson, Farley & Williams. So I have seen, firsthand, the high-quality legal service that the NKO team provides. By joining NKO, I saw an opportunity to work with a team of highly skilled professionals who share a passion for delivering excellent legal solutions and building on that opportunity to establish itself as a leading law firm in both Serbia and Montenegro.
CEELM: Bringing in your background, what are you focusing on next?
Orlic: At NKO Partners, I’ve tried to bring in structures and systems that improve the workings of the firm. I like to see NKO as a local firm with international principles. Our main focus for the future is to continue delivering exceptional legal services whilst attracting more and more international clientele to its already impressive client list. By staying at the forefront of legal trends and continuously investing in our team's professional development, we strive to maintain our position as a leading law firm.
CEELM: What did you see on the ground that you would definitely not change?
Orlic: Being on the ground out here there are a number of things that I am impressed with. In particular, the quality and knowledge of legal professionals. I mentioned this in my guest editorial with CEELM at the beginning of the year – the firms in the region are stepping up to the plate when it comes to delivering excellent legal advice. While it might be harder to discover and nurture talent, once settled in, I would say that lawyers who are successfully practicing law in the region today are doing so at a standard that definitely is on par with their colleagues in Western or international law firms.
Additionally, the amount of, and pace at which reforms are being implemented in Serbia are also stellar. From what I have seen, Serbia is well and truly working on aligning its legal framework with EU standards. Long may this continue!
CEELM: Branko, your story is one of unimpeded and continuous progress: you started your career with NKO only five years ago. What is the key to making Partner so quickly?
Jankovic: I would say primarily hard work, as well as commitment to the clients and an open mind for constant learning from older and more experienced colleagues such as NKO Founding Partners Djordje Nikolic and Djuro Otasevic. Ever since my studies at the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Law, it has been my experience that success comes to those who put in the hard work. I tended to keep the same mentality from the beginning of my career, and it has definitely paid off so far.
CEELM: What made you stick with this team over others? And – on the flip side – what, if anything, would you change from your Junior Associate perspective?
Jankovic: The people at NKO – working in an environment with like-minded individuals who are ambitious and success-driven but at the same time down-to-earth, sensible, and humane – was the key factor for me to stay with the firm. I feel privileged to be part of the NKO Partnership. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it has been tough – working on some really demanding and complex transactions – but, again, the hard work has absolutely paid off.
As for changes, honestly, I would not change anything significantly except for maybe using more opportunities in my off time for networking and connecting with my peers across the globe. This is something that I would like to refresh and intensify in the forthcoming period.
CEELM: What facilitated your growth into your current role and what are the main tips you’d give to junior associates reading this?
Jankovic: An open mind and constant striving to learn new things, hard work, as well as proper organization are the most important tips for any junior associate. It is also beneficial to properly understand your role throughout your career – naturally, young lawyers are building their experience by working on simpler legal matters at first, afterward slowly progressing to more complex tasks, whereas it is equally important to always keep the focus on a high level. Although it is not always easy to balance everything, especially at a younger age, having the right team around you definitely makes working a pleasant experience.