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Settling In: Wolf Theiss’s Expanded Corporate/M&A Team in Poland

Settling In: Wolf Theiss’s Expanded Corporate/M&A Team in Poland

Issue 10.9
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On July 7, 2023, CEE Legal Matters reported that Wolf Theiss expanded its Polish Corporate/M&A practice with the addition of seven Partners, at the core of a 27-strong team, from Wardynski & Partners. Wolf Theiss Poland Co-Managing Partner Tomasz Stasiak and Wolf Theiss Poland Partner and Co-Head of Corporate M&A team Izabela Zielinska-Barlozek share details about the transition and their plans going forward.

CEELM: Let’s start with the beginning. How did this move come about?

Stasiak: There are two sides to the story. Wolf Theiss is a regional firm with the largest office in Vienna. However, a couple of years ago, Wolf Theiss made a strategic decision to prioritize the Polish market due to its significant opportunities. Initially, we focused on the real estate and banking & finance practices, which led to the robust growth to a team of 46 lawyers. Over time, it became apparent that the corporate/M&A market held even more promise.

Zielinska-Barlozek: From our perspective, I can say on behalf of Anna Dabrowska, Krzysztof Libiszewski, and myself [the former Wardynski & Partners Equity Partners], that we did not actively seek a change. While our work in the firm brought satisfaction for many years, as human beings, we always look at our actions, re-evaluate our goals, and seek avenues for improvement. After spending many years with a single firm, we started wondering whether our workplace still gave us satisfaction, inspiration, and space for future professional growth. The pandemic also prompted us to reconsider our environment, and when Wolf Theiss approached us with a proposal, we began to seriously contemplate the possibility of change. We thoroughly examined the firm and, from our point of view, it appeared to offer potential for further career development.

CEELM: What was the selling point – what drew the team towards Wolf Theiss specifically?

Stasiak: We are a leading law firm operating in the CEE/SEE region and offering distinctive opportunities. On one hand, we are not a national firm, which allows us access to a considerably broader spectrum of clients but, not being a global, we are less frequently faced with conflicts of interest. On the other hand, by not being limited solely to Polish clientele, Wolf Theiss provides its own Partners with a constant chance to engage in cross-border matters. It does not come as a great surprise that Izabela, Anna, and Krzysztof decided to join Wolf Theiss, as such a decision is paramount to natural progress in their careers.

Zielinska-Barlozek: As I mentioned, a regional firm with an international footprint approaching us was the main criterion. Wolf Theiss, operating internationally with a larger client base and more resources, seemed like a chance for us to break from our established routine. Naturally, the presence of Wolf Theiss in various offices across CEE and SEE gave us strong regional exposure, a more varied client base, and valuable relationships with foreign law firms. Their focus on emerging technologies, knowledge sharing, and promoting cross-jurisdictional collaboration also greatly resonated with our professional ethos.

CEELM: What synergies did you find with the existing Corporate M&A team and what were some of the elements that required ironing out?

Zielinska-Barlozek: There are many synergies with the firm’s Corporate M&A practice group. Of course, there was already an existing team in Poland and as the whole transition has just happened, we can only talk about it as a work in progress. The synergies shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially for M&A lawyers engaged in international projects. While there are common industry practices and a consistent level of quality, we’ve observed certain differences in the legal technology tools used and the procedures in place. As a regional law firm, Wolf Theiss operates somewhat differently compared to a local one, so adapting to new procedures and gaining a wider perspective is an enriching part of the process. Naturally, there’s also a desire to become more familiar with each other on a personal level, which we’re looking forward to.

CEELM: What were the team’s clients’ reactions and to what extent have they followed the team onto the new platform?

Zielinska-Barlozek: On a personal note, I was genuinely surprised by the positive response and the words of encouragement. However, it’s essential to highlight that, as M&A practitioners, our work revolves around specific projects, requiring us to continually explore new sources of business and broaden our horizons. Rather than concentrating on cultivating relationships with long-standing clients, we have a remarkable opportunity to extend our focus to acquiring new clients and strengthening connections with foreign and international firms.

Wolf Theiss’ robust regional framework provides us with the exciting prospect of actively pursuing new clients and challenging projects. Looking ahead, we can offer local businesses in Poland an avenue to expand their reach to a broader spectrum of legal services, as well as access an international platform and a more extensive network.

Stasiak: We did not intend to rely on the team to bring business from their previous firm. Our intention was to enhance our capabilities and expertise to better serve our existing clients, who were already looking to us to handle larger and more intricate deals in the future. We’ve noticed that our clients are increasingly expecting us to have larger teams in all offices in CEE, which means a wider variety of experts across various Corporate M&A teams.

CEELM: What were the short-term plans post-move, and what can we expect from the team in the mid-/long-term?

Zielinska-Barlozek: Integration is undoubtedly our main priority at the moment, and it’s a process that comes naturally to us with our background as M&A practitioners. It’s merely a matter of time – a short-term plan – but as I mentioned, it involves adapting to new roles, procedures, and a broader organizational ethos.

Stasiak: Integration at Wolf Theiss encompasses both internal and external dimensions. We planned for an “integration day” that mirrors the essence of Wolf Theiss – it’s about the kind of people we are and ensuring a harmonious working environment. This will entail a break from work, offering a range of training sessions on diverse topics unrelated to law, serving as a straightforward yet vital component of our integration process. Additionally, we acknowledge the need to address more complex challenges, such as assessing the flow of work and reinforcing other practice areas to adequately support this expanded team, considering that our previous Polish structures were designed for a smaller firm. As we prepare for our integration day, we do not lose sight of the significant facet which is the active involvement of our new Partners in business development initiatives. Their participation in the IBA conference in Paris marks a crucial initial step in our efforts to strengthen these initiatives.

As for the long-term strategy, we aim to strengthen our presence in Poland even further. In addition to our continued focus on M&A, we are placing considerable emphasis on our capabilities in the energy and infrastructure practice areas. Certainly, as Wolf Theiss stands among the top firms in the region, our overarching objective is to swiftly establish ourselves as one of the leading firms in Poland as well.

This article was originally published in Issue 10.9 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.