English lawyer Christopher Noblet has been based on Hogan Lovells' associated Budapest office since 2000 and leads its transactional and real estate team in Hungary. He studied law at King's Kollege London.
CEELM: Run us through your background, and how you ended up in your current role with Hogan Lovells in Budapest.
C.N.: I first came to Hungary back in 1989 as part of a gap year, just before the fall of the Iron Curtain, and it was then that I met my wife-to-be and my love of Hungary began. I then trained and spent my first years as a lawyer in the Hogan Lovells London office (Lovell White Durrant as it was then known) and when the firm opened its Budapest office in 2000, there was a possibility to come to Budapest on a secondment. So I came to Budapest, my secondment was extended, and now here I am 18 years later.
CEELM: Was it always your goal to work abroad?
C.N.: During my youth I spent quite a bit of time visiting family outside the UK as well as my time in Hungary. This certainly opened my mind to the opportunity of living and working abroad.
CEELM: Tell us briefly about your practice, and how you built it up over the years.
C.N.: My practice is basically a transactional one, which has developed on the one hand through relationships with Hogan Lovells’ firm-wide clients here in Hungary and on the other through building relationships with clients in Hungary and CEE region. I have also combined this with an active participation in the British business community – for example through the British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary (BCCH), where I am currently the longest serving member on the BCCH council.
CEELM: What do your clients appreciate most about you?
C.N.: I think it is important to be able to provide prompt, clear, and concise advice, and to be proactive as far as possible in assisting clients. This is what I try to do. It is also critical to understand the local background and this is one of the reasons that led me to qualify as a Hungarian lawyer as well while I have been living here.
CEELM: Do you find Hungarian clients enthusiastic about working with foreign lawyers, or – all things considered – do they prefer working with local lawyers?
C.N.: I have always found Hungarian clients enthusiastic working together with non-Hungarian lawyers. I think for most though the essential point is having a lawyer who can effectively help them with their legal needs whatever their nationality.
CEELM: There are obviously many differences between the Hungarian and English judicial systems and legal markets. What idiosyncrasies or differences stand out the most?
C.N.: People often like to emphasize the differences between legal systems, however, I think there are often more similarities than may first meet the eye. Frequently our role is to demystify these apparent differences and help people realize they may actually be saying the same things, perhaps just from another perspective.
CEELM: How about the cultures? What differences strike you as most resonant and significant?
C.N.: There are clearly differences between the two cultures, but there is actually much linking the two. Both countries have such a strong cultural heritage. They also share long, rich histories with a historic reputation for hospitality.
CEELM: What particular value do you think a senior expatriate lawyer in your role adds – both to a firm and to its clients?
C.N.: Given the increasing use of UK/US style contracts and concepts in CEE, a lawyer with experience from such a jurisdiction is able to bring a knowledge of how this works in practice. What is also beneficial for a client is where the lawyer at the same time has a deep knowledge of the local market and expectations and is able to combine the two.
CEELM: Do you plan to return to the UK at some point?
C.N.: I have no plans to return, as Hungary is home for me and my family.
CEELM: What’s your favorite place to take visitors in Budapest?
C.N.: The castle district. The views over all compass points of the city and over the Danube always impress visitors.
This Article was originally published in Issue 5.5 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.