Interview with Nadia Matusikova, General Counsel of RWS Moravia about her background and best practices.
CEELM: Can you walk us through your career leading up to your current role?
Nadia: After graduating from the Faculty of Law of the Masaryk University Brno, I started working as a lawyer & HR manager in a small company selling gears and bearings in Brno, in the Czech Republic. Two years and my second graduation later (from the Faculty of Economics of the Mendel University Brno), I joined the legal department of Delta Bakeries (the second-largest bakery business in the Czech Republic back then). In a team of three lawyers, I specialized in debt collection and corporate law. As I already loved technology, I created a database of our debtors in Microsoft Access (who else remembers this tool?) which helped me organize the agenda significantly. I also created a formula in Microsoft Excel for calculating the interests on late payments (such a tool is now a standard part of all legal software). Sometime later I began searching for new opportunities. I saw a very interesting job advertisement posted by Moravia IT. I really liked both the company and the job, but at the time I didn’t feel ready for a change. However, a year later I recognized the same text (an advantage of my photographic memory) in an ad from a recruitment agency. I didn’t hesitate and applied directly with the company. I was the first one interviewed and I got the job. So, since August 1, 2006, I have been working for Moravia IT (RWS Moravia) as an in-house lawyer.
CEELM: What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the Czech Republic’s legal market over your career?
Nadia: Specialization and technology. In the early years of the new millennium, there were still many lawyers who started their careers in the Communist time. They ran their small practices, providing a whole range of services for individual clients: Divorces, inheritance, neighbor disputes, torts, and crimes. Today’s law firms offer their services to companies as well, and they are much bigger, often having teams of lawyers who specialize in only one area of law: M&A, TMT, environment, PPP, privacy, public works, litigations, cybercrimes, etc.
Recently, the legal business, as other parts of our lives, has been impacted by new technologies. Every lawyer now works on a laptop, we use tablets, and we are available 24/7 on our mobile devices. Despite the remaining aversion of many lawyers to anything technical, we all use software designed for lawyers, such as databases of laws, precedent searches, machine translation tools, and the indispensable Google. The legal geeks (believe it or not, they do exist) even work with AI!
CEELM: Why did you decide to join RWS Moravia?
Nadia: I always wanted to work as a lawyer in an international business. But I hadn’t ever imagined that I could find my dream job in my hometown.
In 2006, Moravia IT, now RWS Moravia, was one of few Czech companies headquartered in Brno. Moreover, it was (and still is) a true global company, in terms of locations, staff, and clients. In 2006, Moravia IT had offices in Ireland, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, China, Japan, USA and Argentina, and RWS Moravia now has affiliates and branches in Canada, Colombia, UK, Germany, India, and Thailand as well. We closed our business in Slovakia in 2010. Our headquarters remain in Brno, but we are a part of the UK-based RWS group now.
Our company has 30 years of admirable history – Moravia Translations was founded in 1990 – and multinational teams. Our client portfolio is truly impressive, containing global technology leaders and other successful companies with famous brands.
So, all the above was such an amazing combination that I just couldn’t resist becoming a part of it.
CEELM: Tell us about your legal department. How big is your team, and how is it structured?
Nadia: Our legal department is really small. It is just me as the manager and my colleague. We are both working at the company’s headquarters in Brno, but we are responsible for all legal matters worldwide. Our services must cover every department’s needs – client acquisition, production, vendor management, HR, facility, finance, privacy, and so on. I’m also responsible for corporate agenda and compliance. And on top of that, I am an internal trainer. Just imagine how demanding and challenging such a job must be!
On the other hand, it is also the nice thing about this work. You start your morning by helping your Chinese colleagues review a contract with a recruitment agency, before noon you have a meeting about privacy setting in the new system, after lunch you prepare the shareholders’ meeting minutes, in the afternoon you discuss new lease conditions in Argentina, and in the evening. you finalize the revision of a multi-million contract with our client.
CEELM: Was it always your plan to go (and stay) in-house, instead of spending time in private practice?
Nadia: When I was in my final year of law school, I’d been working in a small law office for three years – and I considered staying there. But back then, junior associates were paid the minimum wage and sometimes you even had to pay an “enrolling fee” to be able to work for the law firm. I was also in my third year of Finance studies and I couldn’t imagine continuing in my studies while working at the law firm. Last but not least, I always wanted to focus on commercial and international law. As I already explained, in 2001, the common practice of an attorney was general, so I would also need to provide services in the areas of criminal, administrative, or family law. And that was not so compelling for me. These were the reasons I started my career as an in-house lawyer, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
CEELM: What was your biggest single success or greatest achievement with RWS in terms of particular projects or challenges? What one achievement are you proudest of?
Nadia: During my long tenure, I have achieved quite a lot. I built up the legal function in the company, increased general legal awareness, and significantly increased the percentage of contracts filed in an official storage place (from 12% to 93%), and later on I created databases of contracts, simplified the on-boarding of resources by creating click-wrap agreements, accomplished several corporate restructurings, and so on. But my biggest single achievement is the first acquisition of our company by Clarion Capital in 2015. The project was top secret then and I had to handle all legal issues which were related to due diligence, and later the transaction itself. It was the first time I worked with well-known law firms and M&A experts and I was proud that I was an equal partner for them.
CEELM: How would you describe your management style?
Nadia: I became a manager just a few years ago. For many years, I had been working as an independent lawyer, organizing all my work by myself. I also had to be very efficient and precise as I had nobody else who could do the job, and with the heavy workload, I had to count every minute. In the beginning, I was quite afraid about delegating my tasks to somebody else. But I was so relieved to get somebody to help me that the delegation itself was no issue at all in the end.
Now when I work with my colleague, Eva Luskova, I grant her a lot of independence. I trust her to deal with the matters by herself, providing her the necessary guidance and advice. I oversee her work from behind the scenes, but I don’t step in unless it is critical. She takes responsibility for her own actions, but she always has my support. I also treat her equally; I like to discuss the legal issues with her (which I enjoy because, for years, I didn’t have this opportunity) and I value her opinion. When I entrust her with some project, I clearly define the expected result, timing, and also the parameters which I require to be met. During the project’s time span I check the status with her occasionally or regularly, and, when required, I redirect her a bit to get her back on track. Otherwise, I leave the solution up to her to avoid any micromanagement.
CEELM: Is there anything unique or special you do that helps you in your job that you could recommend to others?
Nadia: I’ve got one very bit of wise advice – Keep It Simple! I also read somewhere that managers don’t read any email text which is longer than five sentences. So, I put those two together and I try to communicate efficiently in a simple manner, and I send short messages which cover the core of the issue. Nobody wants to read long legal texts; after a while it really gets boring.
During my years as a company lawyer, I realized that when managers seek legal advice, they hate to get those ambiguous memos which many attorneys like to produce with plenty of words in Latin. They want clear options and they love numbers. If you accompany your recommendations with percentages of probability or the amounts of fines or the potential savings, that will attract their attention. It is also easier for them to imagine the impact and your risk assessment is highly valued by them.
Being an in-house lawyer means being a trustworthy partner both to management and employees. You must be an objective legal professional who is honest and loyal. As the General Counsel, I need to be very flexible, able to offer out-of-the-box solutions, and serve as an independent judge. As I work for an international company, I have found that it is crucial to learn and respect cultural differences. That is why I regularly travel to our offices worldwide (at least, I did pre-COVID-19). Seeing your colleagues in person, visiting their work environment, and enjoying life outside the office – these are invaluable hands-on experiences which help you connect with your partners on a personal level and win their trust.
CEELM: What one person would you identify as being most important in mentoring you in your career – and what in particular did you learn from that person?
Nadia: I am extremely glad that I met my greatest mentor when I was still a law student. As I already mentioned, I worked in a small law office as a paralegal assistant. The entire team there was awesome, but I learnt the most from my friend and colleague, Petr Pospisil. He was always patient with me, and he showed me how the law truly worked in practice. He taught me how to draft a formal letter, how to create a smart naming convention, how to file documents logically, how to do legal research (in pre-Google times), and how to be assertive around clients. His advice and approach gave me a lot then and I will be forever in his debt. As a small repayment, I direct all acquaintances who seek legal advice to his own attorney office. If you read this, Petr, Thank you for everything!!!!
CEELM: On the lighter side, where do you take visitors to Brno? What’s the one place a visitor should make sure to visit?
Nadia: Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic and the capital of the Moravian region (yes, that’s where the name RWS Moravia comes from). It is often unjustly missed by tourists, but it has plenty to offer visitors. There is a lot of heritage, and you can take in a great deal of Gothic and Baroque sights on the cobblestone streets in the city center. But the place you must visit is Villa Tugendhat. This architectural jewel is a UNESCO-listed masterwork of functionalism designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The villa is famous for its unique open-plan structure and use of modern technology of the era and an exquisite choice of materials such as onyx, chrome, travertine, and ebony.
When you are tired of sightseeing, you can visit one of the many cafés, bistros, and pubs; their unique atmosphere will convince you that Brno is worth the title of the coolest place to live in the Czech Republic.