"Lawyers feel the pulse of the economy,” says George Dimitrov, the Managing Partner of Bulgaria’s Dimitrov, Petrov & Co. law firm, "so if lawyers have work that means things are going well in business.” Accordingly, Dimitrov’s assertion about his firm that, “we have lots of work and we’re expanding our team” can only be a good sign for Bulgaria.
Indeed, according to Dimitrov, “at present we have lots of work in several directions, including IT, privacy, and communications law, where we help companies deal with regulations like the GDPR and the Network Information Security Directive — so basically helping companies prepare and adapt to all the requirements set forth in Europe for personal data protection and cyber security.” Dimitrov notes that "the EU has created new laws in this area that seriously impact businesses, and all of those businesses need to make the effort to re-engineer their internal processes.”
Dimitrov is asked whether companies in Bulgaria are, at this point, sufficiently informed and aware of the upcoming May 2018 deadline for GDPR compliance. “It’s true that the impact is quite underestimated,” he says, "but it’s also true that the biggest companies on the market, like the banks, the utilities, and the insurance companies are well aware of what’s coming, and they’ve all started their preparations for it. These days I’d say even the smaller players are aware, more or less.”
Dimitrov says that he’s seeing increased M&A activity in the market as well, and “in the areas that we specialize in, we can see that companies in the pharmaceutical area and IT are facing lots of strong competition.” In addition, Dimitrov notes the significant amount of legal work are arising from the ongoing digitalization of industry. "A lot of companies see the need to become more digital to remain competitive,” he says, "so we have an increased number of requests for our IT, privacy, and communications team from all kinds of players. To transform a business and make it more digital means you have to go paperless and introduce technologies to optimize processes. For instance, one of our clients, a bank, who by far relied heavily on branches — now has both the technological ability and the legal framework for onboarding clients without even seeing them, completely remotely. Thus it needs to evolve, and to change internal policies, from the way it onboards clients, to providing more services completely digitally, completely remotely, and to change the ways the services are provided: opening bank accounts, applying for credits, providing banking details, etc.” As a result, Dimitrov says, there’s a significant amount of compliance work and regulatory work related to the process, "which is about 90% legal work.” He notes that clients aren’t the only ones dealing with this process, as "law firms also need to evolve as well.”
There’s no major Bulgarian legislation coming down the pike anytime soon, Dimitrov reports, beyond, “maybe the new concessions for the beaches, which will affect competition in the tourist sector.” Dimitrov says his firm advised the government on the draft law that was published on August 29th for public discussion, "so this is something that is upcoming, because tourism is one of the key pillars of economic growth in the country — so it’s very important.” According to Dimitrov, “if all goes well, once the National Assembly starts its new season in September, this will probably be the first law they consider, so by end of September or by mid-October we should have something ready to go."