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Inside Insight: Interview with Ivan Kravtsov, Senior Legal Director of Carlsberg Ukraine

Inside Insight: Interview with Ivan Kravtsov, Senior Legal Director of Carlsberg Ukraine

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Ivan Kravtsov is the Senior Legal Director of Carlsberg, Ukraine. He started his career as a lawyer at Russian Energy Company JSC in October 2003, and in 2005 he moved to Procter & Gamble. In 2009 he was named the Head of Legal of Shell Retail Ukraine, and seven years he moved to Carlsberg.

CEELM: To start with, what was your first contact with the legal profession? What made you choose this path?

Ivan: I cannot say it was my childhood dream to become a lawyer. However, I think my choice of future profession crystallized when I was a teen. My father, who was and still is my role model, recommended that I consider the legal profession. Finally, yet importantly, I found our school classes on Law Basics very engaging and exciting – more than other subjects. All of that pushed me to choose the career of the lawyer, which I think was the right choice.

CEELM: You started your career in 2003 as an in-house counsel for an energy company. How has the legal profession changed since then in Ukraine?

Ivan: Both local and global developments caused recent changes to the legal profession in Ukraine. The external prerequisite of the big change is the associated membership of Ukraine in the EU. This means that local legislation is actively moving towards harmonization with that of the EU, along with introduction of respective legal institutes, tools, and requirements in the legal profession.

As with any other profession in Ukraine, probably, the job of a lawyer still retains rudiments of the Soviet background, including tons of paper work and the prevalence of form over substance, and so on. However, things are changing. New institutions like the Anticorruption Court, attorneys’ monopoly, transparency of property registers, and public finances call for a different set of legal competencies. The method of providing legal services has changed over recent years. Local subsidiaries of multinationals have absorbed key trends and practices from their Western headquarters, business processes have upgraded and developed, and business itself has become more cross-bordered and technologically advanced.

Now a best-in-class legal department is viewed as a business unit integrating “old school” legal support (such as handling contracts, litigation, provision of legal perspective/advice, and corporate governance) along with newer responsibilities involving ethics, compliance, and risk estimation and mitigation. The shift from a “solve-my-problem” approach to a proactive forecasting of issues and preventing risks seems to be a common trend. For sure, this has required expanding professional competencies for lawyers. Traditional competencies such as drafting, negotiating, and litigating, as well as mediation skills, are now often supplemented by in-depth business knowledge, project management, basic finance, sales, marketing, communications, and relevant industry specifics. Knowledge of the legal process in isolation is no longer mainstream, and lawyers are expected to integrate with their clients and be involved members of the business teams. This requires additional education and coaching, of course – but the return on investment in this case is enormous. 

Another trend worth noting is the increased globalization of business, which has increased the need for in-house lawyers to manage cross-border M&As, financial transactions, and compliance across multiple jurisdictions. 

Finally, yet importantly, there is the rapid digitalization of business and industry. As the amount of data has increased, and business processes have speeded up, legal functions need to seek software systems and solutions such as contract management systems, data search, online document storage, automatic document assembly and sharing, and legal project management and matter management software.

CEELM: What are the biggest challenges that you face as in-house counsel for Carlsberg? How do you deal with them? 

Ivan: I would point to the maintenance of competition compliance, as it is always in the focus of both group and local regulators. Besides compliance, which is part of a global trend for even more integrity and transparency of business, I would say personal data protection and the constant support of commercial functions like Sales and Marketing are also important tasks for me. All of this is accompanied by expectations regarding the constant decrease of external legal advice and spending. 

I manage legal issues with a few simple principles: know your company and its red lines, use common sense, follow the money, constantly develop your team, know the business perfectly, keep your eyes open and head cold, avoid legalese, and use normal human language when communicating with colleagues.

CEELM: What types of legal work do you tend to cover in-house and what do you externalize?

Ivan: We try to keep in-house as much as possible. This is a part of the group’s legal strategy. This is related to compliance matters, competition law, data protection, contract work, on-going marketing, and sales support work. However, we hire lawyers from law firms to assist us in complex court cases, M&A deals, or simply when we need a second opinion (for example, in IP matters).

CEELM: What personal achievements at Carlsberg are you proudest of?

Ivan: I would mention two. Primarily I would consider people development. I am proud of seeing that my team is recognized as best performers by commercial functions. Second, I am really proud when my team creates new approaches and tools to serve internal client and business needs which can be picked up by the group afterwards.

CEELM: Without naming names, can you identify one specific experience with external counsel that was particularly disappointing? 

Ivan: I was lucky not to have disappointing experience with externals. I guess this is due to the fact that we have mutual expectations. Hypothetically, I would be deeply disappointed with an outside counsel who is promising too much but not fulfilling commitments, and just training their young lawyers at the client’s expense.

CEELM: Do you have someone you consider a mentor in your legal career? Who was it, and what did you learn from that person?

Ivan: Yes, I do, and this is my first boss at a multinational company. He taught me not to give up, not to be afraid to say “no,” and to always keep calm and do what I need to do. 

CEELM: If you could go back in time and pick any other career, what would it be – and why?

Ivan: I don’t think this is my case. I am professionally satisfied and happy with my piece of cake. I think the legal profession can open doors to other areas: whether it be politics or public services and activities 

This Article was originally published in Issue 5.11 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.

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