On April 1, 2019, a team led by Francisc and Carmen Peli left Romania’s highly-ranked and widely-respected PeliFilip, which the Pelis had co-founded in 2008, to start PeliPartners. We reached out to Francisc Peli to learn more about the reasons for the big change and his plans for the new firm.
CEELM: Congratulations on the launch of PeliPartners. Can you walk us through your decision to part ways with your former partners at PeliFilip and start this new venture?
Francisc: Thank you, although that already seems like a long time ago. It is true, we built a great firm in a decade of PeliFilip and – most importantly – we had success.
Carmen Peli and I decided to establish PeliFilip – and invited all the other partners to join – in 2008 when the financial crisis was about to start. We agree to stick to a simple plan: to focus on quality, be informal, gather the most talented young lawyers possible, and dedicate our personal time to clients and projects.
We followed these simple rules, and we were consistent throughout. We wanted to be leaders in terms of quality, not quantity. Both Carmen and I, as well as our core team in PeliPartners – our partners Oana Badarau and Mihnea Galgotiu-Sararu – invested hundreds of thousands of hours in PeliFilip, and it became part of our lives. Our touch was felt in every part of that firm, from inception of the brand to the last software we used. And I was managing partner of PeliFilip for eight years, up until 2016. For me, PeliFilip was a signature project.
In 2015, PeliFilip was already “Law Firm of the Year” in Romania, with a client portfolio that included the most important companies active in Romania. I was always very proud of our success, and I still am.
However, PeliFilip was our dream as 30 year olds; PeliPartners is our maturity venture. We felt that we needed to reinforce our original ideas and plans and add just a bit of a twist. We felt we needed to be ourselves and not deviate from our original credo. We added more experience and a better understanding of our role – and we continue to gather exceptional people who trust us and believe in us and our upgraded project. The feedback we get is fantastic and our entire team is energized to move this project forward and to adapt to the changes our clients are facing in their businesses on a daily basis.
CEELM: Can you tell us a little bit about how PeliPartners will be structured, and what specializations it will have?
Francisc: PeliPartners is a full-service law firm. And we think of it as a powerhouse in legal services in Romania, both in terms of competence as well as the type of projects in which we are already involved. We are now a team of over 30 elite professionals – including both veterans who have worked with us for many years and newcomers who have joined our team in recent days. In the first week, all clients we relied on confirmed that they will continue with our new format. Several important banks sent requests for offers. We got new high-profile mandates and we are operating with business as usual. Our vision is to upgrade and reform the services we offer in the key areas of practice to the benefit of both our clients and the people in our firm. Indeed, Carmen Peli, Oana Badarau, and I have many years of experience in landmark transactions on the Romanian market. In between the three of us, in the last 12 months alone we have advised on transactions with an aggregate value of almost one billion euros. Our main practices are:
- Corporate M&A, where we have solid expertise in our team and are lead counsels for the main transactions taking place on the Romanian market
- Finance-Banking, where Carmen and her team are recognized for their expertise by large investment funds and first-class financial companies
- Real Estate, where Oana Badarau leads the largest and most experienced legal team in Romania
- Competition/ Antitrust, where we have in-depth expertise in complex projects in various industries such as insurance, telecom, and healthcare
- Dispute Resolution, where Mihnea Galgotiu-Sararu coordinates a team of shining stars with over ten years of experience in high-profile litigation and arbitration projects in various fields – from telecom and technology, to energy, finance, PPPs, real estate, infrastructure, logistics, and sports.
CEELM: How do you plan to differentiate yourself from your competitors in the market?
Francisc: We have great competitors out there – we learned how to become better from some of them. We are different as we have always been different: We have an exceptional track record of high-profile projects over a long period of time. We always manage to hire the best and most ambitious young lawyers in the market, who want to be involved in big projects so they can show they can make a difference. Together as a team we have what it takes to deliver what clients want every day: Quality in a timely manner. And we do it every time, over and over again. That is why clients love us.
CEELM: Do you plan on joining a regional or international network at some point?
Francisc: We have long-term collaborations with first-class law firms in the world – and we would like to continue our collaboration with them. We have not considered joining a network, but the truth is that we have had no time to actually consider it – we do not exclude it de plano. Should such an opportunity arise, we will weigh it, always looking to preserve our identity, our ideas, and the values that make us special today in Romania.
CEELM: How would you describe the market, the economy, and the prospects for the future right now in Romania for a firm like yours?
Francisc: The economy is doing just fine, and the local transactions are many and significant. There seems to be no sign that anything will slow down soon. However, we live in a global economy, so we are dependent on what is happening outside Romania.
The Romanian legal market is competitive, but there is always room for good professionals doing their job. Lawyering is a matter of reputation – and we have built an excellent one in the past 20 years. We are now just bringing it to the next level.
CEELM: Finally, a broad and personal question. What are your personal feelings about this new adventure – about PeliPartners?
Francisc: According to a study published by the Harvard Business Review last year, people in their 40s are the most likely to launch a successful business. I think that this is because it is a time in your life when you have gathered tremendous experience and you know how to put your ideas in practice exactly as you want them to be. I am now 44. I know exactly what I want and what I want PeliPartners to look like. I have with me an extraordinary team – and we all want the same thing. And there is enthusiasm – contagious enthusiasm about the project. I feel privileged. And I feel alive.