JPM Partners has recently embarked on a transformative journey of both rebranding its operations and integrating with the law offices of Lana Vukmirovic Misic in Montenegro – a “long-time JPM friend and partner.” JPM Partners Senior Partners Nenad Popovic and Lana Vukmirovic Misic discuss the firm's recent rebranding, strategic expansion, and the motivations behind these as well as what comes next for the firm.
CEELM: Focusing firstly on the rebranding – can you explain the motivation behind updating the name of your firm?
Popovic: This is actually the second time we have made improvements to the registered name of our firm. Initially, it was Jankovic Popovic Mitic, then it became JPM Jankovic Popovic Mitic. The latest rebranding was implemented to further develop our brand and recognize the importance of partnership. We have been in the market for a long time and plan to remain here for even longer: we value the partnership model both internally and externally, and we wanted to emphasize this concept in the market.
Simplifying the brand was also a goal. However, the JPM abbreviation – which initially coincided with our seniority order at the time – taken by itself created a distinctiveness challenge. To overcome this, we decided to adopt the name JPM Partners, as it not only acknowledges the partners within our firm, but also our external partners and those who have moved on to establish successful firms after being part of our team.
CEELM: What are the key objectives of the rebranding initiative?
Popovic: The primary objective is to bring more people under one brand. We aim to integrate law firms from different jurisdictions and create a unified organization that consistently delivers high-quality services across regions. Our main goal is to ensure that clients feel comfortable and confident, knowing they can expect the same level of excellence from JPM Partners in any jurisdiction.
CEELM: How will the rebranding impact the firm's strategy, structure, work, and partnerships?
Popovic: The rebranding process will involve incorporating more senior partners, particularly those who are responsible for specific jurisdictions. Initially, we are not planning on integrating the business financially. Instead, the focus will be on integrating operations and assessing the volume of business generated. Over time, we will develop financial models and structures, taking into consideration the unique nature of valuing law firms. The main objective is to maintain consistent quality across jurisdictions and ensure that clients have access to the same level of expertise and reliability. Additionally, the rebranding aims to leverage local resources in other projects and utilize the broader expertise of the firm.
CEELM: You mentioned external partners – could you tell us more about those external partnerships?
Popovic: We have established strong relationships with several law firms in the region, such as our partners in Lex Mundi.
We believe in having local partners on the ground, as it enables us to provide better coverage and maintain the same level of quality work. Our approach is focused on developing true partnerships with capable and reliable local firms that align with our values. The integration of these firms under the JPM Partners brand will bring additional value to our clients and allow us to leverage their expertise in our projects.
We are excited about the first integration and, while we have goals and timelines in place, we are particularly eager to gain valuable experience from this process, which will guide our future steps.
CEELM: Could you tell us a bit more about joining forces with Vukmirovic Misic?
Popovic: The satisfaction of cooperating with the Vukmirovic Misic law firm during the last couple of years, feedback from the clients that we have advised together, and the feeling that we fit together was the reason we have decided to proceed with the integration.
At JPM have always felt, having the experience from our brief but successful joint venture in Sarajevo 20 years ago with our partner at the time from Austria, that outsourcing legal services to other ex-Yugoslav jurisdictions from Belgrade, is not the right way. The best way to serve the client is good local service. Only in cases where the local legal service is lacking resources in certain areas should we bring in our knowledge and experience.
This, together with the legal tech we are using and the potential for clients who are present in both jurisdictions to be served with the same level of expertise and experience, is, in our opinion, the best way to approach expanding into the jurisdictions of Western Balkan countries.
CEELM: Lana, turning this to your viewpoint a bit more: what was the rationale for the move on your end?
Vukmirovic Misic: Anyone who worked on cross-border transactions or multi-jurisdiction issues in the region knows how difficult it is to put together different firms under the same umbrella of standards and approaches. This applies regardless of participation in different alliances. I am convinced that only a one-brand approach with shared values, standards, and technologies can create a standardized service for clients in different jurisdictions in the region.
Considering the size of the regional markets, it makes perfect sense to exchange knowledge and experience in all areas. And I am not only referring to the expertise we often look for from our colleagues in Belgrade (such as arbitration) but also vice versa (e.g., hospitality & tourism, financial services). This is particularly important since the countries in the region have often different industry strengths or are more advanced in certain sectors.
For us, aside from the great cooperation we had and the shared values of our firms, the commitment of JPM Partners to innovation and technologies and a joint vision is what put us together.
Additionally, I feel that this integration is an excellent sign of the Montenegrin legal market evolving. Going back 15 years, Montenegro had no local firms doing this type of work. Most of my generation of lawyers grew up, in a sense, with Belgrade-based firms. With this kind of cooperation, I think that we are finally seeing the Montenegrin market maturing, with firms being true partners.
CEELM: What structure are you creating and will that be a blueprint going forward? What’s changing from how you’ve been working together in the past?
Popovic: We are taking a one-brand approach that is recognizable and accepted in our industry. We share JPM Partners business and service standards and guidelines, legal technology, and we are expanding not only our geographical presence but also our client base and expertise, while remaining separate legal entities pursuant to local bar rules.
Furthermore, Lana is now our Senior Partner and together with other JPM Senior Partners is participating in all day-to-day business activities along with being in charge of providing legal services in Montenegro. This also includes the expansion to other Western Balkans jurisdictions where we are considering and discussing further steps applying the same one-brand approach with established and recognized local law firms.
Vukmirovic Misic: To add to what Nenad said, we are now also sharing the same domain and marketing.
CEELM: How does integrating these law firms under the JPM Partners brand benefit your clients?
Popovic: As we progress with the rebranding and integration process, we want to assure our clients that the same level of quality and commitment they have come to expect from us will be maintained. Our focus is on building a strong network of partners who not only bring additional value but also share our values and work together as true partners. By integrating law firms from various jurisdictions, we aim to create a seamless experience for our clients, where they can rely on the expertise and reliability of the JPM Partners brand, no matter the location. We understand the challenges of working in smaller markets and the importance of having local partners who understand the nuances and intricacies of their respective jurisdictions.
CEELM: What role does technology play in the integration process?
Popovic: Technology will play a vital role in this integration process. We have successfully implemented legal tech solutions, such as AI in document review and business development, and we continue to explore new ways to leverage technology for the benefit of our clients and the efficiency of our operations. This allows us to seamlessly integrate teams and resources across different jurisdictions, ensuring a cohesive and collaborative approach.
CEELM: Are there any challenges you anticipate during the rebranding and integration process?
Popovic: While the rebranding and integration process may pose certain challenges, particularly in terms of technology implementation and ensuring consistent quality across jurisdictions, we are confident that our experience, expertise, and commitment to partnership will guide us through these obstacles. We want to assure our clients that we are fully dedicated to providing them with the same level of excellence and personalized service they have come to expect from us.
CEELM: Any last thoughts to share with our readers?
Popovic: The rebranding and integration process at JPM Partners represents our commitment to recognizing and cherishing the partnership model both internally and externally. By uniting law firms under a single brand, we aim to provide our clients with seamless access to high-quality legal services across multiple jurisdictions. We are excited about the opportunities this endeavor will bring and look forward to continuing our journey with a strong focus on collaboration, innovation, and delivering exceptional results for our clients.