In a move that might appear unconventional for CEE legal markets, Belgrade-based law firm Gecic Law elevated its Head of Operations Hristina Kosec to Partnership. While a lawyer by education, Kosec’s career up to this point has not exactly been a typical lawyer’s one.
CEELM: Congratulations on your recent appointment to Partner! It is rather unusual, especially in CEE, for a Head of Operations to make Partner within a firm. Can you walk us through your career leading up to your current role and share with us the rationale behind your Partner appointment?
Kosec: Thank you for your warm wishes, I appreciate it!
I joined Gecic Law nearly four years ago as an Operations Manager. I subsequently became Head of Operations as the next step in the firm, and I continue to effectively fulfill this role while shouldering additional responsibilities as Partner. Before joining Gecic Law, I had accumulated over 15 years of executive experience in the banking and telecommunications industries, holding various roles, including in finance and product marketing. This breadth of experience has enabled me to successfully adapt and apply principles that work in leading service-oriented organizations to our vibrant law firm, which I trust has benefited from my operational insights. An essential aspect of this story is that my educational background in law and membership in the Belgrade Bar allows me to approach situations from a lawyer’s perspective and seek solutions that consider legal aspects as well.
While my appointment as Partner may be unconventional, it reflects our firm’s commitment to breaking traditional molds in the legal field. At Gecic Law, we value innovation, inclusivity, and a broad perspective on leadership. It is worth noting that having a Head of Operations in a law firm is also unusual in our region. In this role, I have contributed to the firm’s strategic growth, ensuring operational efficiency, and fostering an environment conducive to innovative thinking.
I have the honor of being actively involved in key decision-making processes, supporting the firm’s objective of delivering the highest standards of client service. Although my appointment as Partner hasn’t significantly changed these responsibilities, it has placed a greater emphasis on client-facing activities, requiring me to put on my legal hat more frequently.
In essence, my appointment as Partner underscores the acknowledgment that my contributions, although non-traditional in the legal world of our region, have indeed added value to the firm and its clients. This also aligns with our firm’s multidimensional perspective, which values diverse talents, skills, and their impact on our success. Meritocracy, which prioritizes skills, contributions, and results over traditional roles and strict hierarchies, is a guiding principle we uphold as a firm.
CEELM: Since 2021, you’ve also been co-heading the firm’s ESG practice. How do you split your time between the two roles?
Kosec: Indeed, I took on the role of co-heading the firm’s ESG practice – an area very close to my heart. As someone who led our CSR efforts, I was one of the strong proponents of starting this journey, pioneering this area in the legal world of our region. Co-heading the ESG practice has been challenging and time-consuming, but immensely rewarding. The beauty of fulfilling these two roles lies in their complementarity – as Head of Operations, my perspective on the practice is unique, enabling us to provide closer guidance to clients on meaningfully integrating ESG principles into their businesses and applying them within our operations.
When it comes to time allocation, no strict formula governs how I split my time between these two roles. The interplay between ESG and operations creates an interesting dynamic where one aspect enhances the other. It requires some effort to strike a good balance based on priorities at any given moment. What makes me happy is seeing this symbiosis elevating the quality of the firm and its operations, and our standing in the community, which in turn brings positive client perceptions and better recruitment.
CEELM: Do you believe other business functions should be eligible to be appointed to law firm partnerships as well?
Kosec: Law firms should consider professionals with a business background, including for partnership appointments, as long as they meet the requirements and conditions. Their different experiences, ranging from finance, customer relationship, and information technology to human resource management, may bring various perspectives and skills and play an important role in shaping a firm’s development. Introducing these individuals at a management level could drive innovative solutions and strategic decisions, enhancing the overall functioning and success of a firm.
Looking at predictions for the legal industry’s future, it’s clear that business professionals will be a valuable part of legal teams, bringing unique insights that complement the traditional legal skillset. Legal teams need to transform alongside the businesses they support. Digitalization, advanced technology, regulation complexity, cost efficiency, and evolving ways of working encourage diversified organizations in the legal profession, as clients increasingly rely on their legal teams to help them identify opportunities and solutions in a new reality. Embracing different perspectives from various business fields promotes a more well-rounded approach to addressing complex challenges and adapting to a changing legal landscape. Integrating diverse talents contributes to a more inclusive and collaborative work environment capable of leveraging the strengths of professionals from various backgrounds to drive results.
CEELM: Do you expect other firms in your jurisdiction to follow suit?
Kosec: As the legal market in our jurisdiction becomes increasingly competitive and dynamic, anticipating and providing effective solutions to our clients’ pressing business needs will inevitably require more creative thought and a broader perspective than what is currently prevalent in the industry. In this context, I expect a growing recognition of the value that business professionals bring to the success of law firms. However, the extent to which other firms will follow suit in appointing professionals from non-legal backgrounds as partners may be subject to external conditions and limitations, which we are all aware of.
Additionally, the traditional role and skillset of lawyers are likely to evolve rapidly and become more diverse, reflecting the changing clients’ demands. It would benefit the entire industry if traditional norms and boundaries were also adjusted to adapt to the evolving times. While the legal profession may appear resistant to change and adhere to traditional norms from an outsider’s perspective, I remain optimistic about the future and eagerly anticipate the progressive evolution of the legal industry in our region, embracing a more inclusive approach that values diverse skills and perspectives from various professionals.
Ultimately, the success of law firms depends on their ability to navigate complex challenges and provide effective solutions. Embracing professionals from non-legal backgrounds can contribute to the industry’s performance, as changing demand, technological breakthroughs, and the rise of alternative legal service providers significantly influence the legal profession’s future.