Jalsovszky Law Firm’s Managing Partner Pal Jalsovszky interviews Prologis Legal Counsel CEE Ildiko Kollar.
Jalsovszky: Ildiko, thank you for your time. You started your career at an international law firm and then you switched to become a legal counsel for Prologis. What prompted you to make this decision?
Kollar: The reason was a personal one. I had just given birth to my second child at the time, and I felt it would be difficult to balance the expectations of the law firm with my family commitments. Then, a possible solution came along. Our firm worked for Prologis, which was starting to build its own in-house legal team. Prologis needed an in-house lawyer, and I took the opportunity.
Working in-house, I hoped to find a work-life solution with more balance than is possible when working for an international law firm. Of course, my 13 years working for Prologis have been demanding, but there is one clear advantage of being an in-house lawyer: I have just one single client.
Jalsovszky: What do you expect from an external legal adviser? How do you select the advisers that you work with?
Kollar: I expect business-minded legal advice. This means the adviser not only needs to be excellent in the legal domain but should also understand how our business works. For this reason, we are prepared to invest time into explaining the ins and outs. At the end of the day, we are happier cooperating with a couple of select law firms with a deep knowledge of our business, than working with more advisers who are less connected to us.
Nevertheless, the situation is somewhat different within the different countries in the region. As a qualified Hungarian lawyer, I am able to keep 80% of the Hungarian work in-house, only involving external advisers for large-scale real estate transactions. We also involve advisers in areas that require specific knowledge – for instance, when we set up private electricity networks in our parks, we mandated an external counsel to advise us on the legal implications. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, we use external advisers more on a day-to-day basis, providing them with more general commercial law work in addition to transactional advisory.
Jalsovszky: Do you prefer working with international law firms or local law firms?
Kollar: I find that lawyers at international law firms still have a specific mindset that sets them apart. They understand the circumstances affecting our business, the terminology that we use, and our general daily routine. International law firms, in this sense, are a bit like buying from a well-known global brand: you know what to expect from them and, even if they do not necessarily provide the highest-quality product, you are rarely disappointed. Also, it is easier for me in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to connect with an international law firm as my insight into the legal market is still limited in these countries.
The selection process is a bit different in Hungary, the market in which I am most at home. Here, as well as international law firms we also tend to involve smaller domestic firms in our panel. We still prefer that lawyers have had past experience with international law firms, though.
Jalsovszky: What were your biggest challenges in recent years? How did the pandemic affect your business?
Kollar: The pandemic has created a very peculiar business situation and legal environment. My first recourse for developments every morning was the Hungarian Gazette (Magyar Kozlony) which is a strange situation even for a lawyer to be in! But we needed to find ways to keep up with the fast-changing legislation.
All legal procedures have slowed down due to the pandemic, whether business decisions or administrative procedures. On the other hand, we have had the chance to optimize our use of certain applications (like e-signature and Zoom) with which we were not familiar before. In hindsight, I think the pandemic has been beneficial in forcing us to modernize our processes.
Fortunately, from the business perspective, the logistics sector was resilient to the pandemic, and companies even benefitted from increased demand. It is unsurprising that, due to low entrance barriers and the availability of cheap credit facilities, a lot of new players entered the market, meaning competition has become even stronger.
Jalsovszky: As a lawyer, what key differences do you perceive between the legal systems of the countries that you supervise?
Kollar: There are of course many differences, but I will just highlight one of them as an example. I have recently become extremely grateful for the Hungarian land registry system! In my view, our system is way ahead of the equivalent systems in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, or Romania. This is mainly due to the fact that, while the land registry system has been in continuous operation in Hungary, registering the transfer of real estate property was not obligatory in either the Czech Republic or Slovakia from the 1960s until the early 1990s. This meant a reliable system was not created as quickly, and it is still sometimes very difficult to establish the chain of title for properties. As a consequence, these countries are still struggling with the difficulties of having an incomplete real estate cadaster.
Jalsovszky: What are your main projects and challenges for the coming years?
Kollar: As I just mentioned the land registry system: the electronic land registry procedure to be introduced in 2023 is something which I will need to explore in-depth. Although the digitalized procedure has been a success both in the ordinary courts and company courts, I still have some doubts regarding the land registry offices, where the current practice is slightly inconsistent.
I am also following the developments in environmental legislation with a certain degree of pride. Prologis has always strived to set new standards as an environmentally responsible company – it is a forerunner in sustainability and is, in many ways, years ahead of its competitors. We make extensive use of solar energy and green solutions, and we consider all the environmental aspects of a real estate transaction with a great deal of care.
Finally, legal technology solutions are of particular interest to us. One of our strategic priorities involves continuous improvement through the automatization of our processes. Although we have already made significant progress, there is still room for more comprehensive use of technology in the legal sphere.
Jalsovszky: Thank you for talking to us, Ildiko.
Kollar: Thank you. It was my pleasure.