Ivan Males, from Croatia, is Senior Associate with DLA Piper in Vienna. He is a Finance, Projects & Restructuring practitioner with a focus on financing transactions and the infrastructure sector. In addition, he has gained particular knowledge on corporate and M&A cross-border transactions, notably in CEE and SEE markets.
CEELM: Run us through your background, and how you ended up in your current position with DLA Piper in Vienna.
Ivan: This is quite a general question so I guess I should start from the beginning. I was born in the southern part of Croatia, in the city of Split (the second largest city in Croatia), where I attended primary and grammar school. I attended Law School at the University of Zagreb. There, I was an active member of the Institut Francais and Alliance Francaise, and later I continued my studies in Paris at Universite Paris Descartes (Paris V).
Soon after returning to Croatia from France, I started in my first legal role as an associate with Savoric & Partners Attorneys at Law, a top-tier law firm in Zagreb, where I practiced my legal skills on some of the most significant transactions in Croatia. After a few years of practice and passing the bar exam, I moved on to become a senior associate with another prominent law firm on the Croatian market, Glinska & Miskovic. While working with this law firm, I started frequently to collaborate with DLA Piper Vienna on various projects as an external counsel. After several years, our cooperation evolved to its current form.
CEELM: Was it always your goal to work abroad?
Ivan: From my perspective, it was never a question of living abroad. My goal was always to work in a challenging and dynamic environment, while evolving my professional and social skills. That being said, when the opportunity to work in a leading global law firm such as DLA Piper arose, I could not resist. Could anyone? All things considered, I am happy that this professional opportunity led me to Vienna.
CEELM: How would clients describe your style?
Ivan: I would be glad to know the answer to this question! I try to always do my best in every field of work. Growing up in a smaller city taught me to be friendly and understanding, while the studies and career in legal business made me strive for excellence and to be persistent. A combination of these elements, including DLA Piper’s efforts to encourage me to put clients first and understand their business, designed my current approach. I would hope that my clients see me as friendly but professional, relaxed but reliable, rigorous but pragmatic, easy-going but exact and knowledgeable.
CEELM: There are obviously many differences between the Croatian and Austrian judicial systems and legal markets. What idiosyncrasies or differences stand out the most?
Ivan: Actually, the differences between the two are not that significant. Both legal systems belong to the civil law family and, in addition, the Croatian legal system has historically been influenced by the Austrian one. Although, the Croatian legal system originated from the common Central and Eastern European tradition, Croatia had a substantial level of autonomy in its judicial and legislative organization which caused a different application of the same laws (for example, procedural codes were effectively different in Croatia than in Austria). Later on, the similarities between the two legal systems diminished - up until the accession of Croatia to the European Union, when its legal system was almost completely harmonized with European Union law.
The fact that the market in Austria has been more open for years as well as the fact that Austria has been a part of European Union much longer than Croatia had a significant influence on the development of the legal markets.
CEELM: How about the cultures? What differences strike you as most resonant and significant?
Ivan: Austria and Croatia share similar cultural values originating from shared history. There are no great differences - but if I had to choose something, in my view, people in Croatia are more outgoing, social, and treasure a community lifestyle more, while in Austria people are more reserved and the lifestyle is more individualistic.
CEELM: What particular value do you think a senior expatriate lawyer in your role adds – both to a firm and to its clients?
Ivan: My international experience (both in education and work) allows me to understand how different judicial and legal systems work and, consequently, allows me to have a comparative and solution-driven approach to each cross-border transaction. According to the feedback form my clients, they appreciate having a single point of contact who is able to apply international standards to cross-border deals while keeping an eye on the differences in each local jurisdiction.
CEELM: Do you have any plans to move back to Croatia?
Ivan: For the time being, no - not even long-term plans of moving back. Vienna is a wonderful city and it comes as no surprise that it has been voted one of the most livable cities around the globe for last several years. So, as I am personally and professionally very happy here, I have no intention of moving anywhere soon. Do not get me wrong, I miss my family and friends – but as Croatia is just a few hours away from Vienna I can easily visit them.
CEELM: Outside of the Croatia (and Austria), which CEE country do you enjoy visiting the most, and why?
Ivan: This is a difficult question as each country has its own unique traits. If I had to choose, I would say that I enjoy visiting Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Serbia. Those countries have never disappointed me with what they have to offer - from the night life to local cuisine, from nature to architecture.
CEELM: What’s your favorite place to take visitors in Vienna?
Ivan: Luckily Vienna has a lot to offer from museums, concerts, film and cinema to restaurants and night clubs. The usual “tourist” path in Vienna depends on the wishes of the visitor – but certain places are not to be missed, such as starting a day with breakfast at Naschmarkt and visiting its flea market, followed by a brunch at Palmenhaus, spending the afternoon with a stroll along the park of Schonbrunn Palace and the Schonbrunn zoo (which celebrated the birth of a baby polar bear recently), riding the rollercoasters in the Wiener Prater, visiting Albertina and Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien for an inspiring exhibition, and so on. I always like to take my visitors to the late-night projections of The Third Man, a 1949 film noir set in post–World War II Vienna, at Burg Kino, and/or have a drink at the Loos Bar, an architectural jewel designed by Adolf Loos, with a fin de siecle interior design that is super attractive.”
All things considered, I am happy that this professional opportunity led me to Vienna.