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GC Powerlist > GC Powerlist: Central and Eastern Europe
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For 30 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Central and Eastern Europe, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region...read more
We have canvassed opinions from law firm partners and in-house counsel across central and eastern Europe, to identify corporate counsel that have been instrumental in changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; developing brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; creating innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow. Our team of experienced researchers assessed the nominations, speaking both to general counsel and nominating lawyers to finalise each list. The GC Powerlist: Central and Eastern Europe features not just information on why that individual has made the list, but also comment from those in-house lawyers about how they have helped shape innovation in the legal industry.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: Central and Eastern Europe, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in the region or global), please do get in touch at email@example.com.
We hope that this listing will stimulate debate around the role of the in-house lawyer and help corporate counsel with possible improvements and efficiencies in running their departments.
GC Powerlist: CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Head of legal (Russia and CIS) and lead counsel (Global Business Services, CEE)
General counsel - Global Markets
Siemens Česká republika
Acting director of legal
LOT Polish Airlines
Head of legal services
- Miroslav Bašta
Generali CEE Holding
Regional legal director Central Eastern Europe
General counsel, director of the legal department
Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego
Head of legal
Turk Telekom International
General counsel (law and compliance)
Director corporate affairs
Philip Morris Ukraine
Head of legal department
UniCredit Bank Serbia
General counsel (Czech Republic)
Chief legal and compliance officer
First Investment Bank (Fibank)
Rosia Montana Gold Corporation
General counsel CEE
BNP Paribas Real Estate
Head of legal and compliance department
TU Europa. and TU na Życie Europ
General counsel, director of legal, organisational, compliance and IP division
Head of international legal department
AXA Česká republika
Legal manager (Romania and Bulgaria)
Head of legal
General counsel EMEA
Deputy CEO, director of legal and corporate affairs
Naftna Industrija Srbije
Country legal head and managing director of legal line
Bank BGŻ BNP Paribas
Head of legal consumer healthcare (CE North)
GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare
Head of HR and legal department
Head of legal and compliance department
Head of legal
Legal team leader
János Miklós Jakab
Coca Cola HBC
Legal advisor and head of commercial finance (Poland)
Head of legal department
General counsel (Central Europe)
Deputy head of legal
PKO Bank Polski
Senior Head of Legal Services
T-Mobile Czech Republic
Head of legal department
Head of legal department
Mirabank a.d. Beograd
Head of legal department
Vodafone Czech Republic
Legal coordinator CEE
CE legal director
Tesco Central Europe
Head of legal department
ING Bank Česká republika
Tobiasz Adam Kowalczyk
Head of legal
General counsel (CEE)
Chief legal officer
Head of legal
Head of legal
Ringier Axel Springer Poland and Onet
Company secretary and legal counsel Hungary (head of legal)
Head of legal department
BP Europa SE Polska
Board member and chief operations officer
Echo Polska Properties
Head of legal
Erste Bank Novi Sad
Deputy director-general for legal affairs and head of the legal service
Head of legal (CE), Ethics and Compliance (Hungary)
Legal and compliance manager
General counsel Czech Republic
Atos IT Solutions and Services
Vice president of the management board and head of legal
General counsel (Adriatic and Balkan)
Head of legal department, corporate governance and policy officer
Head of legal
CPI Property Group
Naďa (Mráčková) Matušíková
Lucie Anna Melková
General counsel - legal, regulatory and corporate affairs
Head of legal department and department of land relations
Manager of legal department
Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech
Chief legal counsel
Bel Shostka Ukraine
Country legal and compliance counsel and local legal team lead
Head of legal
P4 (Play Mobile)
Head of legal and compliance
Prima banka Slovensko
Head of legal and corporate at lifecell
Legal sector director
Head of department
Chief legal counsel
UniCredit Bank Hungary
Chief legal and corproate affairs officer
Executive director, chief legal officer
General counsel and company secretary
Legal and compliance director
Getback Recovery Romania
Legal attorney, Romania
Director of legal affairs (Serbia and Macedonia)
Head of legal and compliance department
LG Electronics (Central Europe)
General Legal Counsel, Eurasia Region
Česká telekomunikační infrastruktura (CETIN)
Ioana (Bosinceanu) Regenbogen
Director, head of legal and corporate affairs
ING Bank Amsterdam Bucharest Branch
Manager of legal services department
Chief legal officer and general counsel
General counsel (Central Region)
Head of legal
Chief legal officer and chairman of the board of directors
Home Credit International
Head of legal and compliance department
A&D Pharma (Central and Eastern Europe)
General Counsel Austria and CEE
Group general counsel
P3 Logistic Parks
Chief legal, regulation and competition officer
General counsel (CEE)
Eli Lilly and Company
Y Soft Corporation
Legal counsel, legal director
Head of legal
Samsung Electronics Polska
Legal counsel, head of legal and compliance
Head of legal
Chief legal and procurement officer
Director for legal affairs and government regulations
Naftogaz of Ukraine
Head of legal and compliance
Head of group legal and compliance officer
General counsel, head of group strategy and group compliance officer
Head of legal department
Legal director (Eastern Europe and Middle East Africa)
Director of legal and administrative affairs
Teva Pharmaceuticals Polska
IBM, the largest technology and consulting employer in the world, has been present in Russia and the CIS for over 40 years and is a leading provider of high-value solutions and services to clients in a variety of industries in the region. Head of it legal function, Alexey Amvrosov is considered an expert with significant in-house and private practice experience and a deep knowledge of commercial, corporate, IT laws and international practices. Commended for his excellent management of the legal department, Amvrosov has held a number of leadership positions at IBM since joining in 2005. Starting as a senior attorney at IBM, covering the regions of Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa for six years, Amvrosov then moved on to operate as the head of legal for Russia CIS, a role he still holds. As recognition of his contribution to the tech giant’s operations in the region however, Amvrosov’s role was expanded in April 2016 and he also serves as lead counsel of IBM’s Global Business Services unit for Central and Eastern Europe. Before moving in-house in 2005, he gained private practice experience at law firms Norton Rose (2001-2005) and Noerr (1997-2001).
CCC is the second largest Polish retailer and the market leader in the Polish footwear retail space, owning more than 67 registered brands of goods and operating over outlets across Europe and Asia under the CCC, Boti, and Lasocki brands. Overseeing the legal aspects for CCC is the international legal function headed by Anna Atanasow, general counsel – global markets, a position she has held since 2015. A nominator spoke highly of Atanasow’s ability to not only keep pace with business developments but actively facilitate them: ‘From the date of her joining the footwear retailer, CCC , their business has expanded dramatically. In 2015 Anna helped CCC reach the WIG20 Index on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, acquire online footwear retailer eobuwie.pl, establish operations in Serbia in 2016 and enter Russia via another acquisition in 2016. The company now has 1,166 stores across 16 countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia, with franchise stores in Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine’.
Richard Bacek moved to Siemens in 2009 off the back of a highly impressive private practice career that saw him rise to the level of local partner with CMS Cameron McKenna. During the course of his tenure with Siemens, his role has expanded and he now has responsibility for Slovakia and Romania as well as the Czech Republic. Bacek explains that he built the legal function around the following principles: ‘Firstly, a clear distribution of responsibilities whereby each lawyer is a business partner for the defined business or corporate function. Secondly, motivating lawyers to undertake: internal training of managers; creating and updating templates; and other user-friendly documents for the business. Thirdly, networking lawyers into international Siemens teams and thus motivating lawyers to be part of the global Siemens legal community via information visits to headquarters, participation in practice groups and other methods’. This has allowed the team to be extremely flexible in dealing with the prominent issues, particularly in relation to regulatory changes, new products and ensuring company-wide compliance. Bacek sums up the key to excellent in-house support succinctly: ‘always look at the matter from a business perspective and do not provide legalistic advice. Rather, support the business effectively using whatever legal instruments are available’.
Established in 1929, Warsaw based LOT Polish Airlines is the flag carrier of Poland and one of the world’s oldest airlines still in operation. Acting director of the legal department Mateusz Bączkowski is an exceptional lawyer, praised by sources for his significant contribution to enable the company to cope with a period of several years of financial difficulty. A fundamental member of the airline’s management team, Bączkowski successfully handled its corporate restructuring between 2013 and 2014 through state aid, a process which required securing an approval from the European Commission. He has also overseen the growth of the company including a number of new additions to its fleet over the past couple of years such as Dreamliners and Boeing 737-800s, in addition to establishing new direct routes to make the airline the fastest growing flag-carrier in Europe. Thanks in part to Bączkowski’s hard work, 28 new destinations have been added between 2015 and 2017– the most recent being transatlantic flights between Budapest and the US. Over the last year, Mateusz was responsible for negotiating and reaching an agreement to set up a joint venture between LOT and the Estonian state-owned airline Nordica, an important step towards the consolidation of the Central and Eastern Europe aviation market.
A subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group, Austrian Airlines is Austria’s national flag carrier and largest airline operating a worldwide network of around 130 destinations. In Central and Eastern Europe alone, the airlines’ network is comprised of around 37 destinations. Since joining the company in 2013 as senior legal counsel, Simon Baier has consistency performed exceptionally in the handling of legal affairs and was promoted to the position of head of legal services in June 2016. He now leads the legal services department consisting of five legal professionals and, as a trusted business adviser, provides high level legal guidance to Austrian’s senior management and board of directors for their strategic decision making. Baier is credited for supervising and approving general in-house legal consultancy, contract design and negotiation whilst also monitoring ongoing litigations and legislative changes to allow Austrian’s board to make informed decisions on future company activities.
Miroslav Bašta has had a long and glittering career in the in-house legal ranks. Though he had a successful three year spell with CSOB as a treasury lawyer, his most significant role before his current company was undoubtedly with Citi. He was employed with the international banking giant Citi for over a decade-and-a-half, being stationed in London and Prague where he worked his way up to the position of CE4 division counsel, a multi-national role that is testament to the esteem in which he was held by senior management at the company. From here, he made the move to Generali Central Eastern Europe Holding as general counsel in late 2014, a highly coveted role for a financial services in-house counsel given the global nature of the company and its large portfolio.
Serving as Philips’s first in-house lawyer in Central Eastern Europe since 1996, Dr. Adrienne Benedek is responsible for establishing the internal legal function in the region and over several years has facilitated its reputation as a high quality team, in-line with the company’s business needs. Benedek takes pride in her daily operational work and for having managed several M&A projects and acting as the “go-to person” for all industrial relation issues. Benedek has also managed legal work involving several authorities mainly on quality, regulatory or consumer protection matters and supported countries in anticipation of legislative changes to amongst others corporate, labour laws and consumer protection. When Benedek started in 1996 she was responsible for Hungary, from 2006 Czech Republic, Slovakia and former Yugoslavia. By 2010 her scope increased to cover Romania, Bulgaria and support for operations in the Baltics. On the wide breadth of her inter-jurisdictional work, Benedek says: ‘I had to become a very general practitioner lawyer to manage the work and support the business but at the same time educate and create legal awareness combined with corporate environment, values, principles and ethical rules’. Most notably Benedek has been involved in several reorganisations of Philip’s business in the CEE region including the global split of Philips into two stand-alone companies in 2016, where she managed the CEE legal part. One of her main roles was in making sure all compliance and local and international laws were implicitly followed during the various M&A activities over the years. Benedek reveals, ‘I achieved this through a high degree of professionalism and respect with peers and company leaders’.
‘Be innovative and always try to see the broad perspective. Remember that in every effective company, business comes first before law. Therefore, lawyers ought to be business-oriented but in a way that serves other departments in the company’, advises Piotr Bielarczyk, general counsel and director of the legal department at Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (The State Development Bank of Poland). Beginning his legal career in the litigation and arbitration practice of Polish law firm FKA Furtek Komosa Aleksandrowicz, Bielarczyk has developed into one of Poland’s preeminent in-house lawyers thanks to a myriad of experience and achievements. In 2012 he became general counsel of Polish Post where recognition of his skills was almost immediately bestowed, winning an industry award for innovation, which was followed up two years later by being given “The Most Valuable Director” award by other directors and the management Board. As part introducing a complex restructure within Polish Post’s legal team, he oversaw ‘renegotiations of employment contracts of legal counsellors, introduction of specialisations, centralisation of external legal services, internships and placement programs, a radical increase of work efficiency and the preparation and implementation of the concept of a structure of departments’. In a transactional sense, Bielarczyk lists a number of achievements including Polish Post’s first process of selling a large portfolio of receivables to a debt recovery company, the supervision over Polish Post’s first program of issuing bonds; supervision over the legal aspects of rebranding and introduction of a policy of managing, intellectual property rights in the Post’s corporate group, ensuring satisfactory settlements in several dozen litigations and the supervision over nearly 3,000 court cases. He joined BGK in January 2017 and manages a legal department of 40 employees. Evincing the trust he is held within in upper management circles, he attends supervisory board and general shareholders meetings, advising the former concerning any legal problems that may arise.
Attila Bocsak oversees the legal and compliance functions of the entire CEE operation of Türk Telekom International (TTI), one of the leading regional telecommunications operators consisting of 14 companies and an annual turnover of over €120m. After championing the importance of the legal function internally, Bocsak increased the headcount of the legal department with individual lawyers now working in Hungary, Austria, Turkey and Romania. ‘I also put special emphasis on making the management of TTI aware of important EU regulations that affect the everyday operations of the company’, Bocsak adds. ‘We constantly provide updates on the key legal issues to the management sometimes in the form of presentations, sometimes by providing written summaries’. In 2016, Bocsak made his mark on Turk Telekom by initiating a group wide project on the review and revision of the international data transfers amonst the group’s entities. ‘Although this project was partly influenced by the new rules of the GDPR, it was a project for which I was lobbing for years already’, he explains. ‘As Turkey has much less stringent data protection rules than the EU, it was not an easy process to convince the Turkish upper management of the importance of the project. The new rules and much higher fines of the GDPR reinforced the correctness of my approach on this issue’. A year earlier, Bocsak and his team had to understand, evaluate and assess a highly complex contractual package related to the construction and the operation of a 20,000 km long cable from Marseille to Singapore. The project was a particularly useful experience for Bocsak, as it was ‘interesting to see that a fairly small legal team is capable of being a partner of legal teams of much bigger companies, which, in some cases, have specialised teams focusing exclusively on cable projects’. Bocsak started his career at Clifford Chance in 1999 later moving to Salans (now Dentons) and serving as senior associate between 2007 and 2011.
Having a presence in the country for over 100 years, German conglomerate Bayer currently operates all of its Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Health and Crop Science divisions in Hungary. Bayer Hungária’s general counsel – law and compliance Szilvia Bognar has enjoyed a swift rise in Hungary’s in-house market since starting her professional legal career in 2004. She worked in the Swiss and Hungarian legal departments of Nestlé before assuming her current position in 2014 and has only enhanced her reputation as an expert on corporate law, intellectual property, contract negotiations and international law. She graduated from the Faculty of Law at Pázmány Péter Catholic University in 2004, is admitted to Hungarian Bar Association and completed a postgraduate diploma in European Union law in 2012.
The global cigarette and tobacco company, Philip Morris International (PMI), has been operating in Ukraine since 1994. Today it operates a state-of-the-art production facility in Kharkiv, manufacturing a range of international brands for the Ukrainian market and for export. Having enjoyed prominent in-house legal positions at top multinational companies in the Ukraine since 1999, Nataliya Bondarenko returned to Philip Morris’ Ukrainian business in 2016 – she had a successful spell as counsel for the company between 2002 and 2010. Between her current and previous spell at the Ukrainian leader of the tobacco market, Bondarenko gained acclaim from internal colleagues and external peers for her time as vice president of legal and government relations at Carlsberg, covering the Danish alcoholic beverage producer’s operations in Ukraine and Moldova. Now in another role that befits both her business and legal nous, Bondarenko is already providing expert assistance to Philip Morris Ukraine’s challenge of a tax claim in the national courts. Bondarenko has also held legal positions at Unilever Ukraine and law firm Gedeon Richter – PregLem, in a professional career that stretches back to 1997.
UniCredit Bank Serbia offers local expertise, an international reach and accompanies and supports its clients globally by providing clients with access to leading banks. Gligorije Brajkovic is the head of the company’s legal department and member of the management team, responsible for creating the in-house team with an ability to manage an increasing volume and complexity of work. Managing a team of 25, Brajkovic has worked towards changing the traditional role of legal in-house teams within the company, guiding them to adopt a strategic approach to dispute risk and passive litigation management. Introducing a tech-friendly element to the department, Brajkovic has also launched a first-of-its-kind digitalisation strategy and use of various technology in a number of legal areas. Brajkovic has been involved in the acquisition of DFG by the leading regional private equity firm Mid Europa Partners as well as the merging of Adria Bidco with its subsidiary Serbia broadband operator Srpske kablovske mreže Beograd (SBB). Brajkovic has been accumulating experience in banking and finance with increasing responsibilities since 2003. Among these positions he has been the head of general legal and compliance department at Raiffeisen bank, legal advisor to the managing board and head of the legal department at Delta Generali Voluntary Pension Fund, serving also as a chairman of Delta Generali Podgorica. Brajkovic led the latter’s regional expansion project in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, helping it form strong inter-jurisdictional relationships. His experience also encompasses a private practice stint, where he served as a senior legal consultant in the finance department of commercial law firm Karanović & Nikolić.
A highly versatile lawyer who has spent time at a number of prominent companies in in-house roles and spent time in legal academia to boot, Drahomira Brejchova became general counsel of L’Oréal in the Czech Republic in July 2013. Prior to this, she spent over seven years with Eurotel Praha (since taken over by Telefónica O2 Czech Republic) where she amassed a wealth of legal knowledge in the telecommunications industry. Finishing there in August 2006, she moved into a new legal area with German-headquartered retail wholesalers Metro Cash & Carry working there for two years before moving back into the Telecommunications sector with Vodafone Czech Republic from 2008 to 2013 as an IP specialist lawyer. In addition to this demanding workload, from 1998-2008 she was a lecturer at Anglo-American University, displaying an interest and passion for legal affairs that goes beyond being merely a career option. At L’Oréal, Brejchova’s skill in IP matters, as well as her expert marshalling of the company’s myriad of legal challenges, set her apart as a gifted lawyer who provides real benefit to her organisation consistently.
General counsel since June 2016 of the largest internet-based travel company in the Czech Republic, Invia, Karel Budka emphasises the ‘cross border character of [his] work involving all major economies in CEE’. With this involving ‘recent acquisitions of significant assets in the German market’, Budka is able to say it has made him ‘better understand small market differences between the individual countries and how to approach problem solving’ when approaching cross-border and multinational deals and arrangements. Budka is the first GC of Invia, and as such has been a revolutionary presence in how the company deals with legal matters. He goes into how he has built the legal function of the company since taking over: ‘I centralised the procurement of legal services for the entire Invia Group, and also founded a small legal department. Our approach is to consider if we have enough time and experience to solve a given matter internally and, if not, how best to approach an external law firm. My philosophy, whether providing or buying legal services, is to never sacrifice the quality of legal services for price’. Budka has also recently been promoted to the board of directors of the organisation, which will allow him to provide more direct input of legal considerations to strategic matters that affect the company going forward; a highly impressive achievement given the short length of his tenure with Invia so far.
Headquarted in Sofia, Fibank aspires to be one of the finest banks in Bulgaria and the Balkan region. Iliana Byanova has been at the bank, one of Bulgaria’s largest, since 2008. After impressing in her role as legal adviser, Byanova was subsequently promoted to head of the legal department in 2011. In 2017, she was promoted to the position of chief legal and compliance officer and in this new C-suite role, is responsible for four departments in addition to the company’s legal function: AML, Regulations and Standards, Customer Complaints and Control of Investment Services and Activities. Her time at Fibank has seen Byanova project manage key local and international transactions, M&As, note issues and Eurobonds. She also played a leading role in advising the bank on the successful acquisition and following merger of Hungarian bank, MKB Unionbank in 2013. Before Fibank, Byanova worked at Gugushev and Partners Law Office. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of National and World Economy, Sofia in 2005 and 2006 respectively and also obtained an executive MBA from COTRUGLI Business School in 2016.
With over 14 years of experience in both private practice services and in-house legal counselling, Adina Calfa Dudoiu has experience of handling legal matters in the mining, telecommunication, media, audio-visual and technology as well as the chemical and mining sectors. Growing professionally as a senior lawyer within law firm CMS, whom Calfa joined in 2003, the first transaction she worked on involved the acquisition of a large electronics retailer by an international investment fund. ‘This deal introduced me to the captivating M&A world, it was the stepping stone of my beautiful ten M&A years and made me want to work on the business side’, Calfa explains. After ten years of working in private practice, Calfa decided it was time to move to the in-house field in 2013, firstly in the telecoms industry and later in the mining industry, giving her a wide range of experience and ‘a better flavour of the business world’. Between 2013 and 2016 she served as the legal director for the Romanian branch of the world’s largest international TV and broadband company, Liberty Group. In that role, Calfa was responsible for reconstructing the legal team and rebuilding its image within the company. She accomplished this by re-designing the tasks of some members of the team, tailoring it to their skills, as well as hiring other skilled professionals to strengthen the team. ‘I am proud to say that after these changes, the legal team has become the business partner our colleagues in business have always wanted’, she says. After a successful three years at Liberty, in 2017 Calfa joined mining company Rosia Montana Gold Corporation – a subsidiary company of Gabriel Resources, a listed Canadian company. Amongst her career highlights Calfa reveals that being part of the business decisions and key projects as well as the creator of certain documents that significantly improved client’s experience is ‘extremely rewarding’, adding: ‘Working with very talented professionals and knowing the insights of the key projects made me better understand that being a trustworthy and helpful business partner is key’.
Head of legal at international investment bank BNP Paribas’ Central and Eastern European real estate business is Dariusz Chudy, who, according to a private practice source has ‘an extensive experience in real estate, corporate matters as well as project finance [for] one of the leading international real estate providers’. Involved in the oversight of all legal matters pertaining to the BNP Paribas Real Estate organisation in CEE from his base in Warsaw, Chudy excels in particular through his work on real estate transactions and project finance matters, both fields of utmost importance in the maintenance and protection of the company’s regional real estate portfolio. ‘Chudy oversees operation of the whole legal department in CEE being directly involved in a number of high profile real estate transactions and project finance’, one nominator said of Chudy.
Radu Culic currently services as the legal director for Roche Romania, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and diagnostic research-based companies, offering clinically differentiated drugs in the field of oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and central nervous system disorders. In this capacity, Culic has been behind the implementation of a ‘revolutionary’ distribution model in the pharma industry, successfully dealing with stakeholders and drug agency related matters to establish, for the first time in Romania, the “direct-to-pharmacy” and “direct-to-hospital” models. Culic admits that a positive mind-set is what makes him a standout leader: ‘The main changes was to switch the thinking model. From everything is impossible to everything is possible. From “no, because” to “yes, if”’. Prior to this role, from 1998 to 2007 Culic served in private practice at Nestor Nestor Diculescu Kingston Petersen, then from 2007 until 2010 joined British American Tobacco where he was active in the legal, lobby and public campaign activities against counterfeit cigarettes and illicit trades with such products. He also had a short stint in the telecom company, UPC Romania, a role which enabled him to, ‘eliminate the chaotic way of working and having all three parties (City Halls, operators and private companies implementing the undergrounding projects in several cities in Romania) planning and implementing projects with no impact at a customer level’. Also joining the most popular TV station in Romania, as legal director for ProTV from 2014-2015, Culic was able to gain vast experience on copyrights assignments and licenses whilst implementing contract managements systems.
An excellent lawyer with a range of experience across various in-house legal roles, Marcin Czapiewski leads a 14-person team of lawyers that provide support to two large insurance companies, TU Europa and TU na Życie Europa. Responsible for handling all corporate issues, investments, business negotiations and M&A transactions, Czapiewski also supervises the companies’ lawsuits and cooperates actively with shareholders, management and the supervisory board. Czapiewski took up his current role at a time when he had virtually no experience in the insurance sector. ‘I faced the situation when my employees knew more about insurance then I did’, he shares. ‘It was a real challenge. Being a manager of people who know more than you do is extremely demanding. Sooner or later, every in-house lawyer has to face such a challenge, as nobody can know everything’. Czapiewski quickly adapted to his role subsequently gaining formidable knowledge of the sector and successfully transforming the legal department by introducing clear engagement rules for all internal lawyers and rolling out innovative electronic solutions. Czapiewski has also created a training program providing employees from other departments with dedicated trainings prepared by the team’s lawyers. ‘From a long term perspective, it reduces the number of requests directed to the legal department and, in consequence, increases lawyers “effectiveness”,’ he elaborates. At the moment, Czapiewski is working on a knowledge base project, which is expected to enable a better flow of the ‘know-how’ in the company. Czapiewski also impresses with his transactional achievements, having closed the sale transaction of the second largest (in terms of collected premiums) Polish insurance company at the end of 2016. Another important milestone was Czapiewski’s work on the agreement between the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection and the life insurance industry. He says: ‘I was involved in the negotiations at the Polish Chamber of Insurance level. It was an issue important for the entire industry, since the situation on the market of investment insurance was similar to the UK crisis in 2015’.
Starogard Gdanski-based pharmaceutical company Polpharma manufactures genetic drugs used in cardiology, gastroenterology and neurology. Besides providing full legal support to the company’s seven manufacturing plants, Agnieszka Deeg-Tyburska is in charge of all organisational, compliance and intellectual property related issues. Well recognised in the Polish in-house community for her superior organisational skills, Deeg-Tyburska manages a cross-functional team of 65 people working across Poland, Russia, Kazakhastan and Barcelona. In particular, Deeg-Tyburska is said to have forged an outstanding intellectual property function within the department, which according to reports has submitted more patent applications to the European Patent Office than any other Polish company. Prior to joining Polpharma, Deeg-Tyburska briefly worked at the Polish digital satellite platform NC+. Before that she spent approximately 20 years in private practice working across various leading law firms, such as Taylor Wessing, CMS, Salans and Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Between 2001 and 2002, Deeg-Tyburska also worked briefly as a legal counsel at Eli Lilly and Company.
Marko Denadic is an International construction lawyer and managing director with CML Construction Services, a service company within the Strabag Group, one of the world leading construction companies. The focus of the international legal department lies on Strabag’s international projects and activities. It is to this end that Denadic utilises his expertise on construction law, international arbitration, dispute resolution, compliance and corporate finance to stay abreast of all legal operations. Prior to his current role, Denadic served as legal counsel for OMV Gas & Power focusing on the field of gas logistics including LNG shipping, carrying out projects in Iran, the Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, Malta and Turkey. Denadic applies his multilingual skills to his daily work and is able to provide pre-emptive support in English, German, Croatian and Serbian, making him able to navigate various jurisdictions easily.
Petr Dušek is a financial services legal specialist who has had a succession of impressive in-house legal roles at a number of reputable institutions. From 1994 until 2003, he was employed by German-headquartered HypoVereinsbank, a subsidiary of Unicredit group. In the capacity of head of legal there, Dušek was intimately involved with establishing and expanding the legal function of the company’s Czech subsidiary and displayed expert commercial and organisational skills in addition to his legal talent. From here, he spent seven years with GE Money and a further three-and-a-half with ZUNO Bank as head of legal, where he provided full legal advisory services for the company’s operations in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Hungary; he is thus well acquainted with cross-border work in CEE. In July 2014, Dušek made the move to AXA, and here he has both legal and compliance responsibilities for Slovakia and the Czech Republic, once again proving his ability to manage a demanding and varied workload effectively.
Starting her first in-house experience with Cargill ten years ago, Ramona Ene has stuck to this role ever since, claiming that she fell in love with the industry and company because it serves Romanian farmers and contributes to the food that she eats on a daily basis. Ene is the legal manager responsible for Romania and Bulgaria at multinational company Cargill, which provides food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services in 67 countries. Ene is part of a wider European legal team of approximately 60 lawyers, where she is considered an asset to a unit that is constantly exchanging best practices, ideas and knowledge. As part of Cargill’s goal of ensuring that it invests its financial and human resources to help meet the business objectives while serving the community, Cargill has launched Cargill Care Councils; employee-led groups that implement strategic community involvement activities in their local communities. Ene took great pleasure in initiating Cargill’s first Care Council in Romania and served as its President for a number of years, helping the communities to thrive together with the company. On August 2015, Cargill announced that it signed in a €1.35bn deal to enter the aquaculture nutrition business. As a competition law specialist, Ene was invited to be part of the larger legal team that helped achieve this deal, with her role being to manage and obtain regulatory approvals.
Zoltan Fényi currently serves as the general counsel for Sberbank Hungary – the domestic subsidiary of major state-owned Russian banking and financial services company, Sberbank. Leading the legal department for a bank undoubtedly requires in-depth knowledge in a broad range of areas. This is exactly where Fényi excels, bringing over a decade of experience in retail banking law and corporate finance to the table. He has been central in the company’s roll-out of successful new financial service products whilst ensuring the company maintains a high degree of compliance to domestic and international regulatory regimes. Fényi is also credited by peers for his role on a number of large financing and refinancing deals for important business clients.
Christopher Fischer is an outstanding international business lawyer with upwards of 20 years of experience of managing legal affairs at major blue chip corporations. Currently serving as vice president and associate general counsel and head of legal for the EU region at the multinational financial services and communications giant Western Union, Fischer manages a team of 25 lawyers, legal professionals and regulatory compliance specialists providing legal support to the European Union region in support of Western Union’s payment and banking services. His current role encompasses a wide range of legal and regulatory matters across Western Union’s corporate offering, including anti-money laundering and regulatory compliance, corporate secretarial, customer litigation, and M&A transactions. Prior to joining Western Union 13 years ago, Fischer held in-house positions at IBM, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank and UNCITRAL. He initiated his legal career at Wolf Theiss in 1995. Particular areas of praise by peers include Fischer’s skills in due diligence, commercial transactions, innovation and risk management.
As deputy CEO, director of legal and corporate affairs for Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS), a Serbian multinational oil and gas company, Fominykh has been involved covering all legal matters relating to NIS’s plans for the exploration and production of crude oil, gas and geothermal energy. Facilitating its sales and distribution plans, Fominykh was integral to the company purchasing its first petrol stations in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Bulgaria. In December 2012, NIS opened the first petrol station under the Gazprom brand in Serbia and subsequently in Romania and in Bulgaria with Fominykh playing a leading role in the project. He joined the company in 2009 as director of the legal monitoring department, being promoted to his current position just a one year later.
International, integrated oil and gas company, OMV is one of Austria’s largest industrial companies with over 24,000 employees. Head of all legal affairs and corporate governance matters at this industry leading energy company is general counsel Julia Friebel. She joined the company in 2002 as chief counsel for OMV’s Exploration and Production business but was promoted to general counsel of the Group in 2011. In 2013, Friebel played a key role in negotiating and executing a deal to buy Statoil-owned assets in the North Sea for a transaction value $2.65bn, an important strategic agreement which facilitated OMV’s ability to start producing oil and in Norway. In addition to handling all legal matters relating to OMV’s entry into new territories, its large investment projects and a number of divestments in recent years are features of Freibel’s recent work. She has also been a contributor when working on a number of strategic agreements with Gazprom such as the 2015 resolution of a strategic cooperation with the Russian company. This year, Friebel has been commended for the role she played in the company’s €1.39bn sale of its wholly owned subsidiary OMV Petrol Ofisi to Vitol Group. Having held in-house legal positions at energy companies since 1989, Friebel is one of the Austria’s most experienced and revered counsels. She graduated from Ruhr University Bochum in 1986 and was admitted to the German Bar in in 1989.
Leading a team of approximately 60 people including 40 lawyers, Iwona Gajek, country legal head and managing director of legal line for the Polish branch of BNP Paribas, has a history of providing outstanding commercial legal advice even during testing corporate circumstances. Recently overseeing a hugely influential change in the business, Gajek was responsible for the creation of an legal IT system to service its entire network of branches. ‘This innovative system facilitates the work of in-house counsels and is also a great tool for the manager, through its ability to send queries, provide responses, archive queries, and it also contains a database of responses provided, which facilitates work’, she explains. Not only transforming work and increasing efficiency, this tool has managed to change perceptions of technology within the business. As Gajek says, ‘initially I saw great distrust and caution of both lawyers not used to such IT advancement and internal customers used to working directly with an in-house counsel’. Gajek has proven her abilities as a facilitator of positive and necessary change in other respects, having faced the key task of creating a joint legal team to serve a complex organisation, providing legal services of the highest quality and acting as partner for the business. Due to the history of the company – the organisation has faced three mergers since 2014 – Gajek has had to achieve goals under extreme pressure. She successfully ‘centralised the legal service in one location’, when legal counsels had worked in 19 separate locations dispersed all over Poland. ‘We combined four different organisational cultures and four different cooperation models, and we managed to create a strong and efficient team’, Gajek explains. Before joining Bank BGŻ BNP Paribas in 2003, Gajek had already amassed nine years of experience in Poland’s financial sector and enjoyed a four spell as manager of the legal service unit within the Ministry of Privatisation’s Ownership Supervision Department between 1900 and 1994.
Having an immediate impact at the pharmaceutical giant upon starting in the role of head of legal consumer healthcare CE North, Monika Głowacka Różańska joined GSK in 2014 from Colgate Palmolive. In her first year she was responsible for a number of different initiatives focused on the legal risk mitigation for the consumer healthcare portion of the GSK business in the Northern Central European region. Głowacka Różańska has accumulated her in-house legal expertise through a number of different roles, including the aforementioned consumer goods company Colgate-Palmolive Company in Poland, and was cited by a private practice source during the research process as having ‘navigated a fast changing environment which has seen a number of legislative changes to the pharmaceuticals market’.
ERGO’s Denis Golubovich is a multidimensional lawyer capable of seamlessly navigating cross-functional teams and implementing new process innovations to achieve speed and efficiency when delivering legal advice. Having headed the legal team at the insurance company for the last five years and its HR function for the last two, Golubovich is said to have overhauled both functions, achieving a level of service praised extensively by senior level colleagues. To realise the company’s ambitious strategy in Belarus, in the last few years Golubovich has worked alongside management and formed synergies with revenue-generating departments, contributing to the launch of a number of high-quality insurance services for ERGO’s clients. Prior to assuming control of the legal department, Golubovich worked as a legal advisor at ERGO for over eight years, amassing substantial knowledge of the intricate workings of its business. He started his career at home furniture manufacturer Minskmebel in 2002 following his graduation from the Belarusian Institute of Law.
Peter Gyurovszky, head of legal and compliance for energy wholesaler Ezpada, is fully committed to in-house legal work despite a foray into private practice with Squire Sanders in the early 2010s. He is well-versed at combining legal expertise with a thorough understanding of the company and a sound commercial understanding in order to push the company forward. Gyurovszky has accrued a great deal of experience in cross-border work given that Ezpada has four offices based in the Czech Republic, Germany, Turkey and Switzerland and has learned to tailor his advice to the highly varied nature of these jurisdictions. The ever-present spectre of evolving regulations have been one issue that has consistently been confronted by Gyurovszky and his team, and the fact that they deal with compliance in addition to legal responsibilities magnifies this. That Gyurovszky manages consistently to rise to whatever challenges he is faced with is testament to his considerable skill.
Since its founding in Vienna in 1869, PORR has grown into one of the largest construction companies in Europe and Austria’s biggest building contractor in the domestic building industry. As head of the legal department since 2003, Wolfgang Hussian has amassed a complete understanding of the company’s operations and is one of the country’s finest in-house legal professionals. The bi-lingual Hussain’s most notable recent contributions to PORR include handling all legal matters related to the company’s rebranding in 2013, the splitting of PORR’s real estate business the following year and the integration of its Teerag-Asdag subsidiary into the parent company in 2016. Outside of PORR, Hussein holds a number of significant industry position such as chairman of the Federation of Building Industries of the Federal Economic Chamber’s legal committee, vice-president of the ÖGEBAU and member of the Committee of the Federation of Industrialists. He is also a specialist author and lectures at the University of Vienna, the university he obtained his degree from in 1995.
Austrian food company Agrana has operated in Romania since 1998 and is now a company listed on the Bucharest Stock Exchange market, and the country’s most important sugar producer with over 190,000 tonnes of white sugar produced in the last business year. Current head of the legal department for the company in Romania, Sorina Ilie boasts over a decade of high-quality legal experience. As a testament to her skills, Ilie successfully managed to achieve all targets during a period of limited resources by coordinating the activities of the legal team, an event which gave her the opportunity to test her limits and to increase her capacity to work under time pressure with very few resources. During her time at Agrana, Ilie explains she has been on an ongoing path of developing a vision of creating an atmosphere where: ‘The legal department provide prompt and accurate legal advice and have always a proactive attitude in order to mitigate risks. A better understanding of the problems that the company and its departments are facing, improves also the quality of our feedback to our internal clients’. As a top-quality general counsel, Ilie has been integral to a number of cases, one of them being managing and finalising a share capital increase procedure in an amount exceeding €16m for a company listed on the stock exchange market despite the ‘hostile environment due to the strict approaches of the authorities involved in interpreting the share capital legislation and the opposition of one of the minority shareholders’, she informs. Ilie has also been responsible for transforming the litigation area of more than ten years into a consultancy department, explaining: ‘This change opened up a lot of possibilities for me to develop as a professional, and also from the personal point of view it changed me as an individual: being an in house counsel and working with “internal clients” developed my capacity to listen’.
Starting her legal profession at a private practice, Minerva Ionita had plans to cultivate her professional expertise and for this reason chose to work for a multinational company when joining Arctic in 2012 as in-house lawyer. By May 2015, Ionita had been appointed as the leader of the Arctic legal team. In the beginning the company only had one in-house lawyer, however as the company grew and the European and national legislation pushed compliance to a higher level of complexity, the need to create a broader legal team became more apparent. Ionita says of legal team that, ‘I am very proud of having both the management team’s and my colleagues’ invaluable support for building together a structured legal team with diverse areas of expertise and a business-oriented approach which offers legal support to a large number of projects’. Ionita takes pride in representing Arctic before the European Commission and Romanian authorities on environmental issues, specifically topics regarding the transposition and the implementation of EU Directives as well as offering legal assistance in the new State Aid investment project in partnership with the Romanian government.
Able to speak in English, German and Japanese in addition to his native Hungarian, János Miklós Jakab is a talented individual with a ‘huge drive’ and ‘positive attitude’ according to peers. Jakab joined Coca Cola HBC in 2014 as legal director and, as part of the role, leads a team of senior counsels for the strategic counselling of the US beverage company’s Hungarian business, overseeing and coordinating full legal services provided to internal clients. He is also the company’s compliance officer and leader of cross-functional and regional and group projects, a testament to how highly Jakab’s employer’s regard his expertise. Another peer and former colleague says of Jakab that, ‘he was very smart, agile, commercially astute and was able to connect very successfully with internal and external stakeholders alike. Very good project management skills was also evidenced during numerous corporate restructuring projects’. Before Coca Cola HBC, Jakab was managing partner at Island Hill Consulting for almost five years. Between 2001 and 2012, he quickly worked his way up the legal department of British American Tobacco Hungary, landing the director of legal and security affairs position in 2009.
One of the top Polish financial sector lawyers, Gracjana Jakubowska-Szarek has impressed with her work on restructuring the scope of the legal department at Siemens Finance. Since joining the company in August 2011, she has transferred menial administrative tasks and repetitive legal issues to other departments and law firms. She has also developed the knowledge base within Siemens Finance by standardising processes that improves efficiency both in the legal department and the wider company. In addition, Jakubowska-Szarek organises trainings for non-legal employees in order to help them gain basic legal knowledge so they can deal with simple and repeatable legal issues. ‘As a consequence, on one hand the business partners are able to do certain legal work on their own, resolve simple legal issues or negotiate. Therefore the processes are faster, easier and more cost efficient and on the other hand we have relieved the legal department’s resources in order to deal with substantive, unique and significant issues which helps keep the legal work in-house and save costs’, Jakubowska-Szarek says. Over the past six years, Jakubowska-Szarek has built a great, well-coordinated and dedicated team that is highly qualified and widely seen as a source of expertise, with an innovative and open-minded approach to business issues. ‘I have engaged my time and energy in developing and enhancing team members’ competencies’, she says. ‘The business colleagues now know that they will get top quality support from our team’. Jakubowska-Szarek previously served at White & Case in Warsaw and Frankfurt and graduated in law at the Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu in 2004.
Piotr Jakubowski has been providing outstanding counsel in the corporate world since 1984, when he worked as an assistant in the executive board at Foundation Huk-Verband in Warsaw, and subsequently moved through a variety of legal positions in different companies in a range of market sectors. Established in 1991, Asseco is the largest corporation in the technology sector quoted on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, and its mission is to provide computer software to the banking industry. Nominated for not only his tenured in-house career, Jakubowski is commended for his ability to complement his corporate legal experience with business nous. Jakubowski’s role at Asseco Data Systems as its head of legal department necessities him overseeing the various group of companies that operate under the Asseco brand, which spread across Poland, wider Europe and Israel totalling over 50 countries around the world. Being at the forefront of technological innovation means Jakubowski’s understanding of not only the cutting-edge technologies but the legal concepts surrounding them, cements his place as one of Poland’s most innovative in-house lawyers.
Now the Central European general counsel for Deloitte, Michaela Jandova has proven herself time and again to be capable of succeeding at a wide range of in-house legal roles during the course of her career. Starting her career with telecommunications company Oskar in 2000, she was also employed with Vodafone and IBM before making the move to Deloitte in November 2006. ‘When I joined Deloitte Central Europe’, Jandova explains, ‘our in-house legal team consisted of just two lawyers: one paralegal and one assistant based in Prague. We did not have in-house legal teams based in countries. My role was to build the trust of my internal clients, and we also expanded the team significantly. I am currently leading a team of approximately 30 in-house legal counsel spread across 18 countries, and supporting more than 60 offices in Central Europe’. She outlines her usual responsibilities as follows: ‘Complex transactions are my daily bread and butter, and I support my clients in complex litigations and regulatory challenges. Prominent examples of the latter include the GDPR implementation, new EU Audit regulation, along with many other client and corporate matters’. In order to tackle this demanding workload, Jandova mentions a number of must-have characteristics for members of her legal team: ‘An in-house counsel should be flexible, business oriented, understand the business operations of their clients, and be able to explain their views in a simple and non-legalistic way. As well, an in-house counsel has to have the trust of their clients and always be ready to help. I would say that we live our company’s and client’s lives and are accessible constantly, as a good in-house counsel has to be’.
Bright and dynamic in-house lawyer Jacek Jastrzębski has been praised by sources for his ‘broad knowledge and skills’, his participation in leadership discussions of complex problems and his generation of creative solutions to problems faced by the business. Having worked for nearly nine years within the legal department of PKO Bank Polski, the largest bank in Poland and one of the largest banks in Central and Eastern Europe, Jastrzębski has also impressed with his in-depth knowledge of the Polish financial markets and his ability to navigate complex strategic projects. ‘He offers advice not just on law and related matters but also helps shape discussion and debate around business issues’, a source shares, ‘he possesses team building and leadership skills, and collaborates well with leaders of other functions such as finance, human resources, information technology, research and development, marketing, and sale’. Currently coordinating legal services for both the corporate and investment banking business of the bank, Jastrzębski is said to have ‘the skills and intelligence that people expect from an attorney’, and demonstrates rare long-term foresight, which enables him to anticipate the long-term impact of certain events on business strategy and shareholder value. In parallel to his role at PKO Bank Polski, Jastrzębski works as an associate professor at the University of Warsaw. Prior to joining the bank, Jastrzębski briefly served at Chlopecki Sobolewska i Wspolnicy.
T- Mobile is the largest mobile phone network in the Czech Republic, serving approximately 6 million customers in the country. The German-headquartered company has a rich history of serving Czech customers having entered the country in 1996, providing a network named Paegas. One of the top telecommunications sector lawyers in the country, Petr Josefi manages a well organised team of lawyers responsible for supporting the marketing, human resources and information technology departments within the company. Drawing on his 14 years of experience in the sector, Josefi continues to innovate in his daily role, improving functionality between lawyers and implementing best practices within the legal function. Having served as senior head of legal services at T-Mobile Czech Republic for 12 years, Josefi has impressed with his contribution to bringing 3G and LTE technology to the Czech market, as well as facilitating a strategic agreement with O2 Czech Republic to share their network capabilities.
Grupa Pracuj is an online recruitment internet company and job portal that operates within a market experiencing ‘very fast and constant changes and technological progress’ that requires business partners to be ‘be ahead of competitors and offer innovative products and services’, according to head of the legal department Anna Kamińska. A highly talented and diligent professional, Kamińska joined the Group in 2011 after spells at domestic and international law firms. She is currently at the forefront of several exciting developments in the law, by virtue of the industry the company operates in, but also has a strong pedigree when it comes to executing on significant transactions. A recent career achievement involved her coordinating a cross-border acquisition involving ‘very complex legal and tax issues and at least six different countries and legal systems’. Summing the skills which have helped during her professional career, Kamińska states: ‘All the experiences I’ve had a chance to gain during my work in my company, have moulded me as a legal professional. I learned how to cooperate with entrepreneurs from very diverse business environments and different counties. Without any doubt it made me very business-oriented and much more flexible and open minded’.
Having served as MOL Group’s vice president for legal and general counsel for the last 16 years, Pal Kara is a well-respected and highly experienced lawyer in Budapest, Hungary. MOL Group is a leading integrated Central and East European oil and gas corporation headquartered in Budapest. With operations in over 33 countries and 26,000 employees worldwide, Kara has shown a great grasp of international law, by managing the business’ high profile cases with the upmost professionalism and agility. Known in the legal industry for his participation in the advancement of the legal community, in 2014 Kara contributed to a CEE corporate counsel best practises survey, with the main goal of generating a report which will centralise best practises of general counsel and heads of legal revolving around several critical aspects of building and managing an internal legal team.
Nicola Kavedžić heads the legal department of Mirabank, forming and defining the direction and workload of the entire function. A significant part of this defining process entails drafting the general enactments of the bank and transaction documentation used as standard templates in the bank’s daily operations. Involved in regular communication with regulatory bodies, Kavedžić leads the registration process to obtain the required approvals. He maintains a close relationship with the bank management and advises on all financial legal issues and developing specific procedures to govern the overall process of drafting legal documentation. With a strong international component to his daily tasks, Kavedžić is responsible for preparing and controlling international financial agreements for the bank whilst leading the registration of the bank’s trademark both in Serbia and to an international level. Internally, he supports the human resources department in regards to labour issues and manages the legal department budget’s. Kavedžić is also a member of the Foreign Investors Council Serbia’s legal committee and is a member of the Association of Serbian Banks. Before joining Mirabank, he worked in senior legal positions at ProCredit Bank a.d Belgrade for nine years and a enjoyed a brief spell at Addiko Bank Srbija. Kavedžić graduated in law from the University of Belgrade.
Having overseen and implemented several changes in his current role, Andrzej Klimek, head of the legal and compliance department for financials company Idea Leasing has also participated in a number of important transactions in recent years. He has an array of significant professional achievements such as the sale of VB Leasing Polska shares to Getin Holding for $1bn, the merger of VB Leasing Polska with Idea Leasing that required a total rebranding of the VB Leasing brand and the creation of the six largest leasing companies in Poland and the obtaining €100m in financing from EIB for Idea Leasing’s current operations. Klimek has implemented a lot of changes via restructurings and transformation efforts in the last three years, including the implementation of ‘a transparent matrix of competences and areas of involvement for individual lawyers’, which has had the effect of achieving a ‘high degree of clarity of competences’ matrix for both lawyers and internal clients’, according to Klimek. Consequently he ensured that work is done faster, more efficiently and more professionally. This was of particular importance in the period of rapid and profound changes that the organisation was undergoing. Klimek started his career in 1999 as an in-house lawyer in a fast-growing insurance company in Wrocław. He joined Idea Leasing in 2013, having occupied head of legal positions at various other companies since 2001.
Now with over three million customers, Vodafone Czech Republic is one of the largest mobile providers in the country, and is at the forefront of technological innovation in this highly competitive market. Jan Klouda, general counsel of the company since 2011, leads the legal support of this innovation, particularly in the area of IT service delivery in which the company has a growing market. Klouda joined the company in 2007 as director of legal affairs and has made a huge impact on the company’s operations in the decade since. He is now firmly established as the head of legal matters and has added a more tangible senior corporate string to his bow having been made a member of the board of directors at the end of 2014. As such, he is a fine example of the hugely positive impact elite corporate counsel can have on their companies from both a commercial and legal perspective.
STB (Ukrainian: СТБ) is Ukraine’s leading television network that covers 85% of the country’s territory. Maryna Korniyenko joined the company over 10 years ago, supervising the activity of the channel before creating and heading its legal department. In 2015 she was appointed director of the legal department, managing a 14-strong legal team, then took her current position in early 2017. Korniyenko also restructured the team to better suit STB’s business operations. One of Korniyenko’s many career highlights include arranging agreements on the acquisition of rights to one of the first television formats in Ukraine and the further production of a television show based on that format. Describing her relationship with STB’s senior management, Korniyenko says, ‘since I have been working in the company for more than 10 years, we have a good relationship, we developed along with the company and we know each other well enough’.
REWE Group, a German diversified retail and tourism co-operative, has a number of significant operations in Central and Eastern Europe through its portfolio of companies. Among them is Billa, the European chain of supermarkets originating from Austria where it has over 1,000 stores and a further 700 stores in the rest of the region. Based in Austria, Ekaterina Kovachevich is legal coordinator at REWE Group for Central and Eastern Europe and is Responsible for providing legal assistance and coordinating Billa’s national legal departments in the region. In April 2017, Kovachevich was commended for the role she played in the sale of Billa’s Croatian operation to supermarket chain Spar. Kovachevich joined Billa in 2004 as head of the legal department, before which she spent time as a private practice lawyer at Sygenta.
With over a decade’s tenure at international supermarket giant Tesco, Central Europe legal director Lucie Kovacova knows the company’s sprawling operations inside out. Beginning her career with Tesco as a senior team leader in Tesco Czech Republic in early 2006, Kovacova had moved into an international role by late 2010 and became deputy legal director for the Czech branch by 2012. Since then, she took charge of legal support for product distribution and supply chain before taking on the top legal job for Central Europe early this year. Her thorough understanding of the company’s supply chain gained through these various roles makes her the ideal person to ensure strict regulatory compliance and smooth delivery of the huge range of products that allow Tesco to occupy the privileged position it does in the international market.
Earning his stripes as an in-house lawyer with Československá obchodní banka (ČSOB) from 2000 until 2002, Pavel Kovářík made the move to ING Bank Česká republika in early 2003, and has been with the Dutch-headquartered banking giant ever since. During this time, he has steadily worked his way up the ranks of the company, becoming team leader of the risk management legal section in 2007 before being promoted to his current role in 2012. His core competencies are numerous given the varied nature of his roles throughout his time with the bank, though he counts general lending, structured and export finance, cash management, securities services and financial and equity markets as areas in which he has particular skill. Now, he manages all legal affairs for ING’s Czech operation which, when combined with his managing of the legal team and the length of his tenure at this blue-chip bank, places him among the best banking in-house legal officers in Central and Eastern Europe.
Described by one nominator as ‘one of the best figures among the Polish general counsel’, Tobiasz Adam Kowalczyk indeed has an impressive portfolio to support this statement. A results driven legal and public policy professional, with over a decade of commercial leadership, international trade, policy development and change control, Kowalczyk started his career as an EU Commission volunteer and then diplomatic assistant for the Polish Embassy in Central America, a role that made him realise his ability to build partnerships and bring people together across political and cultural divides. Some time later, when Samsung Electronics announced its investment in Poland, Kowalczyk decided to apply for the role of an in-house lawyer. Upon joining, Kowalczyk had to build the legal department from scratch, helping to shape the rules and procedures that allowed the company to operate on the Polish market. He describes the role as a ‘turning point’ in his career primarily due to his involvement in the pivotal transaction that paved the way for conducting new investments in the country and which was the subject matter of a €250m application in EU funding- a dynamic and complex project that required utmost flexibility from him. ‘Working with Samsung ever since its early days in Poland, had a huge impact on my professional career because it gave me the necessary skills to succeed in the business world as well as helped me to learn how to navigate my way through many difficult situations’, explains Kowalczyk. After seven exciting years at Samsung, Kowalczyk decided to embark on a new professional endeavour, looking for international exposure and a chance to work with leaders in the field of legal and compliance. It was this very sentiment that led him to his short spell at Dentons as a counsel and member of the corporate practice, giving him a fresh look at business practices and his approach to problem solving. Equipped with these new skills, Kowalczyk felt fully prepared for his final and current role at Volkswagen as their new head of legal and public policy for Poland. Considered a ‘significant step up’ in his professional life, Kowalczyk, a man with great ambition decided to join the automotive industry to not only manage their legal risk but also to impact the business. In this capacity he is responsible for identifying and managing legal risk and public policy in four Polish factories which employs approximately 10,000 employees.
Ghelamco Poland is a constituent in the Polish real estate industry having operated in the country since 1991 and has since become one of the leading commercial real estate companies in the market. Leading legal affairs for the Polish subsidiary of Belgian Ghelamco Group, general counsel for the Central and Eastern Europe region Joanna Krawczyk-Nasiłowska covers a wide range of geographical locations and practice areas in her role. She says despite ‘mainly focusing on Polish activities’, she oversees the countries of Cyprus and Luxemburg, Germany, Cyprus, Ireland and the Ukraine. She and her team are heavily involved in business strategy, and responsible for commercialisation efforts and help with sale projects including a real estate transaction valued at more than €5m. She also played a key role in an agreement for obtaining €115m in financing, one of the biggest such deals in the Polish market.
AmRest Holdings is the largest independent restaurant operator in Central and Eastern Europe with a growing international presence, operating nearly 1,450 category restaurants with 30,000 employees. Since its formation in 1993, Amrest has built a portfolio of well recognised, powerful global brands including KFC, Pizza Hut, Burger King and Starbucks, achieved thanks to a strategy of solid franchise and joint venture partnerships. Chief legal officer at the company is Dawid Książczak, who has been spoken of by a nominating source as showing outstanding transactional support that has helped AmRest achieve it strategic objectives. The source explains how Książczak has helped the company through ‘successful M&A and integration work carried out by Amrest in preceding years’. Książczak is well-placed to combat the risks to the AmRest business thrown up by the legal environment it operates in, having accrued over a decade of experience within the company, first joining as a tax and legal manager in 2006. Throughout his time at the company Książczak has assisted in deals that have enabled AmRest to lay down a footprint in new markets, for example, in 2012 AmRest acquired two unique brands operating in China – Blue Frog and Kabb which Książczak helped oversee and reach its successful conclusion.
Dynamic lawyer, Lucie Kubenova leads the legal team of Sanofi in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Upon joining the company in August 2014 Kubenova to the position of legal director, ensuring legal services and counselling to the legal entities in the territories of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic in order to minimise legal risk. In February 2016, Kubenova was promoted to head of legal, overseeing the management of legal services when entering into legal relationships – a process which involves the drafting, control and approval of contracts according to internal policies in order to comply with legal requirements and optimise the company’s position in legal relations across the board. Kubenova has accumulated a first-rate portfolio in the pharmaceutical sector; prior to this role Kubenova served as the Central Europe compliance coordinator for AstraZeneca, coordinating and consolidating compliance data and activities across the Central European cluster. She also served as the legal and compliance manager for over three years at a global leader in medical technology, Medtronic, in a role which has moulded her abilities as a leading legal professional in the healthcare sector.
Established as a joint venture between Swiss Ringier and German Axel Springer, Ringier Axel Springer Media manages 165 digital and print products in several expanding markets in the CEE region. The company has grown to be the largest media group in Poland with a large portfolio of publications, such as Fakt- the best-selling newspaper in Poland, two sports dailies (the nationwide Przegląd Sportowy and the regional Sport), as well as the weekly Newsweek Polska and the business monthly Forbes magazine. Hailed as a ‘natural born leader’, Jakub Kudła has led legal support to the company’s Poland operation for a decade, establishing a reputation for his ability for adequately handling all ongoing legal issues across the company’s extensive portfolio of products. Well recognised by peers for his understanding of and interest in new technologies, Kudła has been a driver of Ringier Axel Springer’s having recently facilitated the acquisition of the remaining 25% stake in the country’s largest internet portal Onet from TVN, as well as the acquisition of a majority stake in the leading public transport route planning service Jakdojade. Kudła’s previous career features stints in private practice, as well as an in-house role at Axel Spinger Polska.
As the company secretary, legal counsel and head of legal at Diageo Hungary, Gábor Kukovecz, leads a team of 10 professionals to provide various legal services within the Diageo Group globally. Kukovecz is additionally responsible for the management of the in-house legal function at the Hungarian Diageo entities, overseeing cross-border projects by applying his renowned skill-set to all daily tasks. Before joining Diageo in 2012, Kukovecz also had a short but invaluable spell at leading tobacco group, British America Tobacco (BAT), a role which required him to counsel the business functions and cross-functional teams in order to ensure compliance to all relevant legislation, as well as managing all litigation related to BAT Hungary’s business activities. Most notably, in 2007 Kukovecz participated in the creation of Invitel international, the largest alternative telecommunications company in Hungary, by merging four former operations. In 2008, he became the legal manager of the demerging Invitel international Group, responsible for providing legal support for its ten subsidiaries from Vienna to Istanbul. This scope and significance of responsibilities he has held over the course of his professional career invariably makes Kukovecz stand out as one of the most competent in-house lawyers in the region.
BP Europa SE was founded in 2010 after the merger of BP’s national organisations in Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Poland together with Deutsche BP in Germany. The following year, BP Switzerland was also integrated into the wider company. This consolidated business of the multinational oil and gas giant BP in the region is organised into one company operating across each different country where the country business is run by a branch setup in the country itself. Having almost 20 years of experience within the BP business, Andrzej Kurzydło, head of legal department, is well-placed to provide legal support to the Polish arm of the BP Europa SE business from his base in Krakow. Kurzydło draws on the experienced and knowledge gained during his studies at the faculty of Law of the Jagiellonian University and postgraduate studies in European law and a professional career that started in 1996. According to a nominating source: ‘Since 2005 he has managed the legal department responsible for the legal services of BP Europa SE Group operating in Poland. In his work he concentrates primarily on issues such as investment, commercial law, and energy law. He also has experience in mergers and acquisitions and is responsible for compliance with anti-corruption practices and compliance with anti-competitive practices’.
Rafał Kwiatkowski, board member and chief operations officer has a multi-faceted role at leading real estate investment company Echo Polska Properties (EPP) that includes heading EPP’S legal operations. EPP was created in 2016 as a result of a joint venture between Echo Investment and Redefine Properties – Kwiatkowski had previously held the chief legal officer role at Echo Investment and assumed the most senior legal role at the new company when the deal was completed. The transaction involved Redefine Properties acquiring a 70% controlling stake in the company that owned 18 commercial properties for €1.2bn – the largest ever Polish commercial real estate deal. Praised for his role in managing and leading the oversight of this complex transaction, a nominator claims Kwiatkowski has achieved something that ‘very few in-house lawyers have done within such a short space of time’. This included achievements such as ‘leading the IPO of EPP in Holland, then EPP’s dual listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, a further fund raising of Johannesburg, whilst also managing the acquisition of a further five commercial real estate properties in Poland – all within the space of just over one year’.
Erste Bank Novi Sad’s head of legal, Nikola Lapčević, has been mentioned by nominators for his extensive legal career within a number of leading financial companies. Lapčević joined Crédit Agricole Group in 2009 as its head of litigation, and in 2011 was promoted to the role of head of legal. In-house roles aside, Lapčević displays a range of other legal talents, serving as an associate to the judge for the Fifth Municipal Court in Belgrade between 2004 and 2007, as well as an attorney for Živković Samardžić, one of Serbia’s leading full service independent firms from 2007 until 2009. In 2013, Lapčević served as an arbiter at the Court of Honor within the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce, a role he took on for three years of his career.
Krka ranks among the top generic pharmaceutical companies in the world, primarily producing and selling prescription pharmaceuticals, non-prescription products and veterinary products in more than 70 countries. In the position of deputy chief executive of legal affairs and head of legal affairs, Borut Lekše oversees legal matters on all of Krka’s most significant activities and operations. Because of the challenging legal and regulatory regimes that all pharmaceutical companies encounter, Lekše is renowned in regional in-house legal circles as an IPR expert that is able to efficiently work with other departments in order to guarantee successful company operations. In 2017, Lekše has been helping the company set up a joint venture in China that will expand Krka’s presence in the country.
Now in charge of an 18-person in-house legal team at major Czech oil company Unipetrol, general counsel Martin Letko cooperates closely with other elements of the company’s operations, as well as those of its majority shareholder, the Polish-based PKN ORLEN Group. Letko has spearheaded a successful internal restructuring of the Unipetrol legal team whilst at the company, both through the creation of new structures and sub-teams and by redistributing responsibilities among team members. Efficiency improvements related to this has allowed the team to take on a greater proportion of the overall legal work, meaning that less is spent on external counsel – a highly important undertaking that Letko has enabled in the six years he has been with Unipetrol. Letko has also been involved in a number of important deals during his tenure at the company, during which he acts as a representative of the company in business dealings regularly. One such major project of particular note involved the takeover of minority shareholdings in a joint venture that Unipetrol had with ENI and Shell in order to operated two refineries in the Czech Republic. This highly complex operation was completed successfully, providing a particular career highlight for Letko, and he is surely destined to add even more memorable moments to his in-house resume over the coming months and years.
Hungary was the location of British supermarket giant Tesco’s first foray into Central and Eastern European markets and where it established its first store in 1995. It has since expanded to currently operate over 200 stores and become the country’s third largest employer. Noted for his outstanding provision of commercial legal and compliance advice, Tesco’s head of legal – CE Ethics and compliance, Andras Levai leads a team of nine employees in the pursuit of mitigating the company’s legal risk profile. Also a member of the Tesco CE legal leadership team, Levai’s day-to-day work is connected with leading the ethics and compliance agenda including anti-bribery, fraud, competition compliance, data protection and similar matters across the Central European region, as well as local legal issues – mainly litigations and authority investigations – in Hungary. Describing what he has learnt in his career, Levai says, ‘Whilst supporting business projects I realised that being a good lawyer in itself is not enough to become a good in-house counsel. You should also be a good business partner, otherwise you will fail’. Before joining Tesco, Levai spent three and a half years in private practice at the Dr. Hidasi & Partners Attorney Law Office, where he worked on and obtained ‘a number of purchase and lease contracts, managed all legal cases of the companies and realised great experience in litigation’ – providing the platform for him to become one of Hungary’s premier in-house lawyers.
Serving as the legal and compliance manager for Mercedes-Benz Hungária for the last ten years Dr. Zsuzsanna Lippai has gained much respect from peers in the industry. Among her key responsibilities Lippai provides support to all departments and matters encompassing data protection, intellectual property, anti-trust, compliance and integrity management and internal trainings. In her current position she participated on elaborating and implementing the electronic contract approval and archiving process thereby ensuring the transparent approval chain: ‘My first major project was the implementation of the compliance system, thus I gained thorough overview on the business processes. As a result I can provide legal advice as a business enabler to my colleagues with a deeper understanding of the business priorities and environment’. In 2013 Daimler became 100% owner of the Hungarian entity. Lippai supported the M&A on a local level and subsequently implemented all the relevant new legal and compliance processes to harmonise operations with the parent company. The legal supervision and support of the contractual relationship with the authorised sales and aftersales partners is an ongoing task for Lippai in matters involving CRM systems and vehicle connectivity services. Lippai has also proved herself to be a key element of the strong business legal relationship which has formed over the years, explaining: ‘I managed to build a trustful relationship on the local and the headquarter level as well. Management and their colleagues consider me a reliable and proactive professional, who focuses on building the business and demonstrates a service attitude towards internal customers’. Lippai previously worked as head of the legal department at Frieslandfoods Hungária Kft, where she internally and externally coordinated legal teams in three countries, whilst harmonising workflows and representing the legal team in front of the international board of top management.
IT services powerhouse ATOS’ presence reaches worldwide from the company’s dual headquarters in Bezons and Munich. Utilising its information technology base, the company is a world leader in cutting edge transaction solutions and is at the forefront of cloud, cybersecurity and big data innovations. Martin Lisa, general counsel for the Czech Republic arm of Asos IT Solutions is exceptionally well-placed to lead legal matters related to this cutting-edge technology. He boasts over a decade of experience with the company, having originally been employed with them since 2004. As such, he has kept his finger on the pulse with the phenomenally fast pace of change in this quick-moving sector, and can be regarded as one of the leading in-house legal professionals in the IT sector in Central and Eastern Europe.
As the largest garment producer in Central and Eastern European region, LPP operates a network of over 1,700 stores, including a flagship store on London’s Oxford Street and 20 stores planned for Germany by the end of 2017. Its five recognised brands (Reserved, Cropp, House, MOHITO and SiNSAY) are sold across 19 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Employed by the company since 2005, Sławomir Łoboda currently serves as a vice-president of the management board, a role which covers responsibilities for the acquisition of new retail space, the construction of new stores, as well as the management of the legal department. A commercially minded lawyer that is well integrated in the corporate affairs of his company, Łoboda has been instrumental to LPP’s recent success, supporting the completion of a number of significant projects, such as the creation of its franchise network, taking the company public, a merger with Artman, the disposal of the Esotiq brand and the development of the company’s chain of stores. Besides his work at LPP, Łoboda currently serves as a president of the Hospice Foundation Council, a public benefit organisation taking care of people with chronic illnesses. He has also been awarded the Bronze Cross of Merit by President Bronisław Komorowski.
As L’Oréal’s general counsel for the Adriatic and Balkan region, Milan Lomic is responsible for setting up and developing L’Oréal’s legal function in the region, covering Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Bosnia. With his experience and focus on competition law compliance, contract drafting and consumer protection, Lomic has managed the team in forming the regulatory framework of the retail business. Lomic has shown great capabilities in his support to the advertising and marketing activities of the company, strengthening its brand image in its countries of operation. In his five years at L’Oréal, Lomic has additionally been tasked with real estate transactions and litigations which he has successfully navigated. Lomic previously served in Metro Cash & Carry as a legal advisor and an antitrust officer, as well as a legal advisor for UniCredit Bank Serbia.
The German multinational company Henkel, which is active both in the consumer and industrial sector, has operated in Ukraine since 1998. Today, Henkel Ukraine has four production facilities and two offices that are responsible for the implementation of powerful brands in diverse business areas. Having held senior legal positions for global international brands in Ukraine since 1996, Henkel Ukraine’s current head of legal department, corporate governance and policy officer Olga Lukyanova is an in-house lawyer with a formidable record of delivering expert legal advice for over two decades especially in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMGC) sector. She joined the company in 2008 and has been credited with playing a leading role on a number of transactions and strategic activities by interacting with various Henkel Ukraine business units. Before joining Henkel, Lukyanova was legal director at JT International Ukraine between 2004 and 2007. Prior to that, she was legal department head for P&G in Ukraine for seven and a half years. Her legal career began at the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice.
Bank Millennium has been providing universal financial services to clients from all segments of the market through its nationwide network of branches, individual advisors and electronic banking channels for 25 years. Having worked at the Bank for almost 23 years and as its head of legal for over a decade, Grzegorz Marzec was spoken of in extremely high regards by a nominating source who explains that by being head of legal for ‘one of the largest and most innovative consumer banks in Poland, [means] the spectrum of matters and complex legal issues is very wide’. Possessing superb managerial skills, Marzec has overseen the creation of a ‘great and devoted team of in-house lawyers, which is responsible not only for handling legal matters, but also for compliance issues’. He is recognised for his innovation in the form of the legal aspects to new technologies – the Bank is one of the most innovative banks in Poland, implementing new technologies regularly. As a nominating source states: ‘[this] requires outstanding legal support with respect to various regulatory matters. Grzegorz Marzec has led the legal department of the Bank with a great success through many periods of changing economic and legal environments and technological transitions, which resulted in the great success of the Bank on the Polish market, shown by numerous awards won by the Bank, including the highest level of consumer satisfaction and acceptance in the “Banking services” category. He is good at building relationships and an exceptional leader, with deep emotional intelligence and fair judgment’.
Leading on perhaps the most significant real estate deal of the year in Central and Eastern Europe, general counsel of CPI Property Group Martin Matula can look back on an incredibly successful past twelve months. In March it was reported that the company had closed a deal to acquire eleven shopping centres across the region from CBRE Global Investors in a deal valued at around €650m. Given that the centres were already in operation, Matula’s work to ensure a smooth transition into the new operating regime, and oversight of the extremely complex financing arrangements given the number of banks involved, was particularly noteworthy and came in for great praise from the legal world.
One of the largest translation and localisation companies in the world, Moravia allows international companies to transition to international markets with unprecedented ease. It is by nature an international company, and in addition to this general counsel Naďa Matušíková provides full legal support to the company’s various regional headquarters, based in Europe, North America and South America. On top of this, Matušíková has a significant role to play in strategic matters at the company, particularly in the areas of M&A and joint venture deals and transactions. In addition, she is intimately involved with ensuring that the company’s information technology is up to par and trains other employees in legal risk and how to mitigate it. Matušíková’s demanding scope of responsibility has been earned over many years; she has been with Moravia’s group of companies since 2006, and has built up trust in her capabilities through understanding the organisation – and its business goals – from top to bottom.
Italian-headquartered CRIF is a credit bureau and business information services provider with a presence on four continents. Lucie Anna Melková is general counsel for the Czech Credit Bureau arm of the company and, in addition to a demanding legal workload, provides training and mentoring for other company members via the CRIF Academy in her role as a lecturer. This is an area she is passionate about and, in addition to her professional responsibilities with CRIF, Melková is a lecturer at the College of Banking in Prague; formerly, she was an assistant professor in the faculty of law and public administration. Prior to working with CRIF, she was a lawyer for private practice firm Hrubý & Buchvaldek of Prague.
During the last calendar year at the powerful agro-industrial producer in Ukraine, UKRPROMINVEST-AGRO, Denys Melnykov contributed directly to the registration of 15,000 land lease contracts, alleviating the risk of loss of about 40,000 hectares of land and potential tax payments. Having led the legal department at the company for the last five years, Melnykov has also impressed with his work on a number of marquee projects for the company, such as the state registration of a private enterprise right of permanent land tenure and the initiation and implementation of debt cancellation projects amounting to approximately UAH 80 trillion. Melnykov’s organisational achievements focus on his work of building a creative, professional atmosphere to rally lawyers within his team to achieve company goals and provide assistance to their colleagues. Additionally, he implemented a project on the unification of cyclical and repetitive legal tasks, thus significantly contributing to saving resources and allowing his team to engage on more significant business issues. In his previous work experience, Melnykov worked across various leading businesses in Ukraine, including Best Business Group, Kredit-Aktiv Group, Molniya and Al-Yami.
A highly experienced legal officer in the automotive sector, Petr Michnik is a Hyundai veteran that has been with the Czech arm of the company since its inception in 2006. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Czech Company (HMMC) was the first Hyundai manufacturing plant in Europe, and reached its full annual production capacity of 300,000 vehicles in 2011, before production capacity was increased to 350,000 in 2015. As such, the operation of the company is vast, and requires a corresponding level of legal initiative to back it. Michnik proved himself to be the best person to lead this elite team by proving himself time and again during the course of his tenure with the company. Beginning as a senior lawyer after moving from a head of legal role with project development company Skanska CZ in 2006, Michnik spent the best part of four years surpassing expectations with the company which led to the promotion to his current role as head of the legal department in 2010. With over a decade of experience in HMMC, Michnik can be considered among the leading automotive manufacturing in-house legal specialists in Europe.
Leading a team of 10 individuals in her role as chief legal counsel at Bank Pocztowy, Agnieszka Modras has displayed her outstanding legal knowledge and business-centric advice Since moving in-house in 2015. ‘After 13 years with top legal firms, for almost two years I have been pursuing the managerial path as an in-house [legal] bank manager. This is a new but very fascinating era in my professional career, I believe that the experience gained as an external consultant taught me how to assist business people so that they are satisfied and taken care of’, she states. A lawyer with an approach that is collaborative and built on teamwork, Modras says she puts a ‘strong emphasis on supporting [her] team and [she] can feel that this is important for them’. Elaborating further, she says, ‘we agreed an internal distribution of tasks so that each lawyer is able to develop in areas of his or her interest. I make efforts to promote my people and make business people respect them. On the other hand I motivate my employees to think more businesswise and outside of the box’. Modras’ recent achievements include working on the launch of a new e-banking system, handling complicated proceedings before the Antitrust Office and dealing with IT contracts and internal restructurings. In addition to her decorated career, Modras contributes to industry discourse via other means such as a project that engages professionals to teach children about banking and finance.
Kalman Molnar is one of the most experienced legal professionals in Hungary having served as an in-house counsel at the global consumer goods company Unilever since 1994. Having joined the company shortly after its entry to Hungary, Molnar has significantly extended the scope of his responsibilities and currently supervises the company’s legal affairs across 18 countries throughout the Central and Eastern European region. His role also covers public affairs in the Hungary and Adriatic region. Over his long-term tenure at the company, Molnar has successfully worked on large-scale M&A transactions, shielded Unilever against an array of lawsuits and has facilitated the launch of new production capabilities in different countries. Prior to his career at Unilever, Molnar spent five years as deputy head of legal at the Hungarian Tax Administration. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at Eötvös Loránd University in 1995.
Part of the French Le Groupe Bel, Bel Shostka Ukraine is a leader in Ukraine’s cheese market. After joining Bel Shostka Ukraine in 1994, Tatyana Moroko has simultaneously risen through the ranks of the organisation and developed an advanced understanding of the company’s business. As a result she was appointed legal director in 2012 and today covers a range activities including managing intellectual property issues, serving on antimonopoly committee investigations and handling various corporate law matters to name a few. Since taking on her current role, Shostka changed the focus of the legal department from specialisation to generalisation when serving the company’s industrial and commercial divisions to better meet business expectations. ‘The exposure of the legal team and its input was increased through different legal and cross-functional projects. External service costs was decreased many times thanks to more efficient in-house services organisation’, she adds. Moroko’s legal career began in 1991 spending three years in the legal department at the local military gunpowder plant in her hometown. Between 1994 and 2001 she was a senior lawyer at Shostka City Milk Factory. Before being appointed to her current position, Moroko has served Bel Shostka Ukraine as a legal advisor, a senior legal advisor and head of the legal department.
Accenture requires little in the way of introduction, being the first name most will think of when it comes to management consultancy, and some of the company’s current statistics are truly impressive; it reported revenue a touch shy of $35bn for 2017 financial year and has a total of around 425,000 employees globally. Alan Neradny is country legal and compliance counsel and local legal team lead for the company’s subsidiary in the Czech Republic and displays a versatile legal skillset. He is particularly adept in the area of employment law and, on the business side, he counts corporate governance and restructuring as particularly strong areas of his. Prior to working at Accenture, whom he moved to in 2014, Neradny specialised in the financial sector, being employed in in-house legal roles for Slovakia-based bank Tatra Banka and investment company Kenvelo Holding.
One of Poland’s leading in-house lawyers in the telecommunications sector, Dominika Niewiadomska-Siniecka receives praise from peers for her reliability and initiative, as well as her in-depth understanding of several areas of the law. In charge of the legal department at the telecommunications provider P4 (trading as Play) since 2010, Niewiadomska-Siniecka has contributed directly to the company’s rise to the position of Poland’s second largest mobile phone operator. In the last two years alone, Niewiadomska-Siniecka has actively contributed to the expansion of Play’s LTE network to reach 81% of the Polish population. In 2017 Niewiadomska-Siniecka captured industry headlines in Poland with her work to facilitate the company’s IPO, the largest in Europe’s telecommunications sector in the last five years. Also this year, she has been involved Play’s landmark PLN 7bn refinancing deal with a group of financial institutions and has been responsible for defending against proceedings launched by the Polish Consumer Protection Authority (UOKiK) regarding the use of unused funds purchased on phone cards. Prior to moving in-house Niewiadomska-Siniecka worked for leading multinational law firms CMS, Beiten Burkhardt and Clifford Chance.
An experienced lawyer in the fields of competition, negotiations and litigation, Vladislav Nikolov was appointed general counsel at EnduroSat, one of the few global companies producing small satellites, in the beginning of 2017. Nikolov is responsible for handling all corporate issues in the field of law, investments, and business negotiations. He also cooperates actively with shareholders, management and the supervisory board, of which he is a member. EnduroSat now has a true worldwide presence in the aerospace sector, and on any given day Nikolov typically advises the business on matters in a number of markets. Before joining EnduroSat, Nikolov spent over ten years with Overgas where he developed significant expertise in the energy industry. Overgas, which is joint owned by Gazprom, is Bulgaria’s largest private gas distribution company. There Nikolov grew a team of around eight lawyers which he structured like a law firm, helping to create a better climate for business. This resulted in a number of successful administrative and court cases before the European Commission (DG COMP and DG EN) and the National Supreme Courts in which Nikolov and the legal team played a direct and leading role. In his time with Overgas Nikolov was credited for doing a tremendous job in helping the company to enter the national market for the sale of natural gas as an independent player in the face of national legislation aimed at liberalisation of the industry. Before joining Overgas, Vladislav Nikolov worked at the Commission on Protection of Competition (CPC). In this intense environment he acquired knowledge of a number of different business areas. He holds a master of law from Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski and holds a master’s degree in European Law from the same university.
Stefan Orosi is deemed a talented business-orientated legal counsel by peers, with vast in-house legal and management experience in the banking sector. His legal career encapsulates an abundance of senior legal roles across the Slovakian business landscape. During his four year tenure at Prima Bank, Orosi has managed all legal functions of the mid-sized bank that provides banking services to retail, municipalities and SME clients. Furthermore, Orosi has also led on the handling of legal compliance issues, anti-money laundering reporting and fraud preventions by applying a meticulous approach to all matters and subsequently reaching advantageous agreements when representing the bank. Orosi also had a successful spell at Volksbank for four years, as the head of legal services, a role which required him to manage internal legal services and support, as well as the procurement of external legal services.
Described by a former colleague as ‘a deep-thinker with great analytical experience’ and praised heavily by peers for his attention to detail and superior communication skills, Andrey Osipov’s 17 years of professional experience across well-known multinational companies places him among Ukraine’s most exciting corporate lawyers. In charge of the legal and corporate department at lifecell, the third largest Ukrainian mobile telephone network operator, since 2014 Osipov has formed a close-knit team of 16 professionals that handles legal issues, provides business transformation support and covers antimonopoly matters. Prior to joining lifecell, Osipov served briefly as head of legal and compliance at METRO Cash and Carry in Ukraine and before that spent six years as head of legal of Avon Cosmetics’ operation in Ukraine and Georgia. Earlier in his career, Osipov also served as head of legal at The Coca-Cola Company and cosmetics company Oriflame.
A leader in the exploration, production and processing of oil and gas, INA Group holds a dominant position in Croatia’s oil market. Describing his move to the company in 2009, Luka Pavleković admits, ‘I had no plans to move in-house as I was enjoying my [private practice] lawyer profession at that time but I could not let this opportunity, working for the largest Croatian oil company, pass. Soon, I found the role of the in-house lawyer a very interesting and challenging one and was very motivated to learn and grow’. After a swift promotions, in 2014 Pavleković was appointed to his current position to head legal operations by covering all the international and domestic legal activities for INA’s group of companies. Pavleković earned significant internal recognition for developing INA’s legal team into trusted advisers that proactively assess and manage legal risk. Describing the challenge of this development, he says, ‘the most challenging task was to redefine the traditional role of the in-house legal department, providing legal opinions and handling litigation, and their interaction with businesses colleagues. My vision was that in-house lawyers should not be bogged down with activities that can be outsourced elsewhere and should spend more time and be more involved in business activities.’ Another significant feature of Pavleković’s time at INA came after Croatia’s 2013 accession to the EU. ‘We faced a huge volume of regulatory changes. It was essential to collaborate with business colleagues to gain deeper understanding of the changes and its effect on operations in order to adapt and support growth’, he explains. Before INA, Pavleković spent four years at law firm lairm Hrabar between 2004 and 2008.
As the head of the legal department of OTB Bank, the largest financial services provider in Hungary, Andras Pete is responsible for all its corporate legal and regulatory matters. No stranger to heading leading banks across the country, Pete’s portfolio encompasses over 19 years at MKB bank, the fourth biggest commercial bank in Hungary. Pete initially joined in 1992 as deputy head of the legal department, then in 1999 was promoted to head of corporate legal department and director of legal. Characterised by high levels of knowledge in the areas of financial risk, project finance and corporate finance, Pete is admired by peers for his accrued legal expertise in the banking sector.
Judit Pettkó-Szandtner has worked in Hungary’s banking sector for more than twenty years and currently leads the Hungarian legal department of UniCredit Bank as chief legal counsel. She initially joined the company as head of legal, compliance and corporate affairs but following an internal restructure and having excelled in that role, Pettkó-Szandtner assumed her current position in January 2016. Early on in her career Pettkó-Szandtner gained experience at OTP Bank, Novartis in Switzerland and the Austrian law firm Eiselsberg Natlacen Walderdorf Cancola in Budapest. An individual with a multitude of talents, besides her daily job Pettkó-Szandtner acts as a judge of the Permanent Court of Arbitration of the Money and Capital Markets, she is an employee delegate to the Supervisory Board of UniCredit Bank Hungary and chairs the supervisory board of Arany Pénzügyi Lízing. Amongst her many achievements, Pettkó-Szandtner is also a co-author of the commentary to the Hungarian Act on Investment Service Providers published in 2016. Describing her qualities, one source says, ‘[Pettkó-Szandtner] is a person of common sense, brushing away irrelevant thoughts and getting to the core of what matters, relying primary on her own resources and abilities’.
Part of Deutsche Telekom, Slovak Telekom is the largest telecommunications and multimedia company operating in Slovakia. Having joined the company back in 2010, current chief legal and corporate affairs officer Jan Pitoňák has amassed an advanced understanding of the company’s operations to become one of its foremost business partners on high profile developments. In his current role, Pitoňák is a member of the executive management board and takes responsibility for legal, regulatory and public affairs in addition to handling compliance and information security matters. 2015 was a significant year for both the company and Pitoňák as Deutsche Telekom paid €900m to take full ownership of Slovak Telekom, in one of the country’s largest and most significant deals of that year. Pitoňák was noted for his contribution on the transaction, with sources highlighting his thorough and efficient work ethic and expert M&A skills as key features of his contribution. Pitoňák has previously worked at Ružička Csekes Law Offices and obtained his law degree in 1995 from Comenius University in Bratislava.
Bogdan Plesuvescu is the executive director and chief legal officer in Banca Transilvania, one of the three largest banks in Romania. Throughout the years Plesuvescu has occupied management roles with different financial and banking institutions and groups, as both head of legal division and vice-president. He has over 16 years of management and legal experience, including experts skills when handling regulatory matters and M&As. In addition to his current role with Banca Transilvania, Plesuvescu is also the head of the legal commission of the Romanian Banking Association, member of the Board of the Romanian Financial Banking System Association of Legal Advisors and a member of the Turnaround Management Association, a non-profit organisation for professionals in corporate renewal and turnaround management.
General counsel and company secretary for Air Serbia, Danijela Popadic has led the Serbian flag carrier’s in-house legal team on a number of novel and complex deals. Most recently he played a key role in the landmark finance transaction that enabled Etihad Partners, Airberlin, Air Seychelles, Alitalia and Jet Airways to raise €1.2bn through a five-year corporate bond, a move which was recognised as the innovative deal of the year by Airfinance Journal. Discussing this achievement Popadic says: ‘The concept of the transaction was changed a few times as it was necessary to develop a synchronised model aligned with the regulatory requirements in five different countries – Germany, Seychelles, Italy, India and Serbia – which made this transaction incredibly unique and ground-breaking’. Amongst her most celebrated achievements, Popadic achieved the first ever green-light granted by the European Commission, in a case pertaining to the Commission’s investigation into Etihad’s investments in Air Serbia to identify whether its foreign ownership of European carriers complies with the EU airline licensing rules. Supporting the Serbian airline, Popadic has also been responsible for managing and aligning local and foreign counsels regarding Air Serbia’s operations in Croatia, which is closely related to the ongoing dispute concerning the interpretation of the European Community law. Popadic has also been behind the long-anticipated launch of long haul services to New York, a plan that was classed as the most important project for the company in 2016. Popadic adds: ‘This service was re-introduced to the marketplace after more than twenty years. In addition to overseeing various activities related to the launch, I led the in-house team in negotiations and closing of the long term lease of the A330 aircraft used for the purposes of the New York long haul launch’.
Beginning her career in 1999 in the Financial and Private Equity Fund division of a Romanian bank, gave Mihaela Popescu the opportunity to gain experience in the highly competitive environment offered by the Romanian banking system. At the time Popescu did not know that she would develop an exceptional professional career, amounting to over 16 years in the leasing industry and ten years in the legal field. Everything became clearer in 2013 when she had the chance to develop her professional experience at one of the top players in the industry, Planet Leasing. Her role there gave Popescu the opportunity to work with highly professional people in a wide range of reputable Romanian companies within Planet Leasing’s client portfolio, contributing to their impeccable financing services and legal framework in line with the demands of the leasing market. This endeavour lasted almost ten years, during which time Popescu graduated in law and was appointed as legal counsellor of the company, gaining substantial legal and financial skills whilst creating sustainable growth of the business strategy. In 2013, Popescu joined Intesa Sanpaolo Leasing and became responsible for setting the foundations of its legal and general affairs department. Although it was a short period, it provided her with invaluable experience due to the variety of equipment leased by the company. In 2014 she started the collaboration with a number of companies belonging to Daimler’s Mercedes Benz Financial Services in Romania, holding the head of legal and compliance position at the company. This role has given her the chance to not only work with people on an international scale but also advance her knowledge of leasing operations, developing her skills both in terms of management, leadership and legal skills to become an exemplary part of the Romanian in-house legal market. Gaining recognition in the industry, Popescu is described by a nominator as a ‘very skilled professional with a massive sector knowledge, possessing complex management, communication and coordination skills’. In May 2017, Popescu joined one of the leaders on the Romanian receivables market as a legal and compliance director.
Gabriela Popescu is one of Romania’s most experienced in-house legal professionals, boasting a career of over 20 years managing legal affairs at leading multinational companies. In October 2017, she joined Microsoft’s Romanian operation, where she currently supports the company’s diverse product offering, which ranges from its market dominant operating systems and office software suite, to its growing consumer and enterprise software portfolio. Until recently Popescu served as head of legal and country head of compliance at Novartis in Romania, where she provided full support to the company’s innovative products sold in Romania, as well as its Targu Mures based factory, which produces generic drugs under the Sandoz brand. Prior to that Popescu spent 16 years as regional legal director at Colgate Palmolive. She started her career as a legal advisor at The Coca-Cola Company. Besides her law degree attained from the University of Bucharest, Popescu boasts an Executive MBA completed at ASEBUSS and the University of Washington.
As the director of legal affairs for Atlantic Grupa, one of the leading food companies in the region, Aleksandra Popovic has spearheaded a number of its most pivotal and strategic acquisitions during her five year tenure at the company. Most recently, in 2015, Popovic led the acquisition of Foodland, a food company specialising in homemade fruit and vegetable products. Furthermore, in 2014, Popovic was integral to the acquisition of Prodis, a distribution company in Slovenia and Croatia and beginning the distribution of Unilever’s portfolio. Popovic was also a key contributor to the introduction of a new organisational model based on six strategic business units and four strategic distribution units, following the 2010 integration of Droga Kolinska into the Atlantic Grupo system. Popovic’s plethora of legal skills combined with her accrued knowledge on EU laws and regulations, has contributed to Atlantic Grupo building its reputation as one of the most dynamic business systems in the region.
South Korean multinational electronics company LG has a footprint in the Central European region, and leading the legal and compliance department in this operation is the highly-distinguished Rafał Poznalski, working from his base in Warsaw. Poznalski joined LG Electronics in Poland in 2009 as its head of legal and has made numerous impacts since this time, one nominator is particularly praiseworthy of Poznalski’s work in ‘significantly reducing the costs connected with the legal actions of the company by 75%’. Other achievements include the preparation and implantation of internal policies that have had the effect of ‘increasing the operational efficiency of the company by approximately 40%’ and a compliance program that has ‘led to the decrease in the number of areas threatened by legal risk to zero’. Most recently, Rafał has overseen the merger of its production bases in Poland in order to enhance management efficiency, which involved the tech company moving its production facilities in Wroclaw in western Poland where it produces around three million [television sets] per year to a location in Mlawa’. Poznalski’s previous career roles have seen him assume an in-house position as legal department manager at Capital Group TELMONT, and as a senior lawyer and trade mark specialist at Polish law firms.
Beginning her career in 1997, Olga Prokopovych has developed into one of the most respected in-house lawyers in Ukraine. ‘In my almost 20 year legal career, I was fortunate to serve as external advisor and as in-house counsel for numerous multinationals concentrating in real estate and M&A transactions, changing focus lately on technology and privacy’, she explains. Prokopovych joined global Dutch technology company VEON in 2016 as chief legal officer for Ukraine but because of the skills she demonstrated, she was promoted to general legal counsel for the entire Eurasia Region in March 2017. During her time at VEON, she has changed the structure, responsibilities, concentration and specialisation of the legal team ‘to provide a tailor made approach to all business functions’. Elaborating on this, she adds, ‘we implement digital ways of cooperating with the business by setting up more ways of communication and information sharing with colleagues’. Some of Prokopovych’s career highlights include successfully closing a major multimillion dollar antitrust case with Ukrainian authorities and ‘operating in the Ukrainian environment during revolutions, force majeure events whilst successfully leading the business to the positive results’. Other notable positions held by Prokopovych before VEON, include serving as corporate, external and legal affairs director for Microsoft in Eurasia countries (2013-2016) and an international counsel for law firm Chadbourne & Parke (now Norton Rose Fulbright) between 2010 and 2013.
Petr Prouza’s vast experience of legal work prior to his role with Česká telekomunikační infrastruktura (CETIN) was drawn exclusively from external legal roles at top international legal firms. Nevertheless, when the opportunity to join CETIN as general counsel in June 2015 came up, Prouza reports that he ‘did not hesitate much’ before accepting. His time with CETIN since then has been busy, and he comments that he and the company have faced ‘many challenges’ over the last two years. Elaborating on these challenges, Prouza says, ‘firstly there was the separation from O2 and follow up actions (over 25 commercial agreements between CETIN and O2, finalising the separation of IT and other systems and related issues). Secondly, defending the position of the company in front of the European Commission in relation to the network sharing scheme with T-Mobile which is being investigated. Thirdly, [was obtaining] external financing of CETIN via a syndicated loan of approximately CZK 32bn in 2015 and through issuing Eurobonds in the amount of approximately €1bn in 2016’. Prouza has had the opportunity to develop the CETIN legal team himself since taking over. As to what he prioritised when it came to building the legal team, Prouza mentions the following: ‘All I have done was to ensure that the legal department and each of the lawyers are pushed to an upper level of service – I was lucky to be able to use over ten years of experience in top law offices as a basis for this. I can see that this extra effort brings quicker responsibility times and higher quality of dealing with particular issues’.
Ioana Regenbogen is the director and head of legal and corporate affairs for ING Bank Amsterdam Bucharest Branch, the Romanian company that operates as a branch of Dutch multinational financial company ING Bank. In her role, she manages legal support for all business lines of the bank including retail, mid corporate banking, wholesale banking, financial markets, and for other entities within ING Group Romania involving leasing, factoring and insurance brokerage. Through her expertise and dedication to the bank, in December 2015 her role was expanded to cover the coporate affairs function. In light of this new role, Regenbogen started to coordinate activities relating to the representation, advocay and promotion of ING’s interests in industry organisations. Regenborgen explains that the most important achievement is her skilled approach to delivering legal services, adding: ‘Our focus is on understanding the need and on finding practical, sound legal solutions instead of hunting legal risks and putting them on the table to be decided by management. Benefits for the company and for the clients [are an] increase of efficiency, a decrease in legal services delivery time and increase of and high level of client satisfaction’. Regenborgen regonises that the root of her success lies with being an agile in-house counsel with strong business knowledge, as well as welcoming challenges and adopting broad-based thinking aligned to the ever-changing demands of the bank.
A lawyer of 29 years, Božidar Ristić, currently serves as the manager of the legal and general services division of Jubanka, one of the leading banks in Serbia that provides various banking products and services in. As its legal manager for six months Božidar Ristić has already implemented a number of internal and external projects as part of leading the bank’s legal division and general services. With an extensive background in banking and financial services, Ristić previously served as a manager of legal services for Alpha Bank Serbia, for six years. In this capacity, Ristić was responsible for a large scope of legal areas. Monitoring business in compliance with internal and external regulations was a large part of his role, giving him a broad range of cross-regional experience which he brings to his current role. His experience also encompasses three years with UniCredit Bank Serbia. Joining as secretary of the supervisory and audio committee in 2007 and in 2009 assuming the position of team head for corporate affairs in the legal department, where he represented the bank in court and checked agreements with international financial institutions, banks and large companies whilst participating in various projects and preparing statuary documents for banking bodies.
Based in Ukraine, Metinvest is an international vertically integrated mining and metallurgical group of companies that manages every stage in the production chain of value creation, from the extraction of iron ore raw materials and coal to the production of semi-finished products and finished metal products. Since 2012, the company’s legal function has been headed by chief legal officer and general counsel Svitlana Romanova. Since beginning her professional legal career, Romanova has acquired expert legal skills in dispute resolution and an advanced knowledge of the oil and gas sector in the Central European region. She has recently been involved on a number of company activities concerning a range international and domestic investments worth billions of hryvnia in politically testing times. Before joining Metinvest, Romanova spent 12 years at international law firm Baker McKenzie CIS including four years as partner between 2008 and 2012.
Managing legal affairs for Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic for the US multinational conglomerate 3M is general counsel (Central Region) Edit Rosta. Since taking the role in 2016 she has further enhanced her credentials as a specialist in business-related and trade union negotiations, training for non-legal audiences on legal topics and soft skills and advisor on legal and compliance related matters. Between 1996 and 2012, Rosta was country counsel for Hewlett-Packard in Hungary. In that role she gained recognition for building the legal department, contributing on risk assessment procedures and assuming full budgetary responsibility. As a lawyer with a career that spans over a quarter of a century, Rosta is one Hungary’s most respected and influential in-house counsels.
Based in Bratislava, Slovnaft is an oil refinery with Slovakia’s largest retail distribution network. At the helm of company’s legal function since 2016 is the experienced and talented head of legal Nada Rostek Spustova. As a member of Slovnaft’s top management, she provides in-house management of all legal services and compliance for the company and its subsidiaries in Slovakia as well as within Slovnaft´s flagship companies in the Czech Republic, Austria and Poland. Before Slovnaft, Rostek Spustova provided independent legal advice on Slovakian and EU competition law and energy law for almost 10 years at Slovakian law firm Ružička Csekes.
With ultimate responsibility for a large legal team worldwide, chief legal officer of a global consumer finance institution Home Credit Group, Pavel Rozehnal is one of the most high-profile lawyers in the Czech Republic and across Central Eastern Europe. As such, he has a long list of successes when choosing particular career highlights. However, he picks out the following: ‘I would say the acquisition of a bank in Kazakhstan in the second year of my career was very important, as I learned the difference between external and in-house counsel; money really matters and you have to take financial aspects of the deal into account when in-house. Also, in 2010- 11 I did a complete divestment sale in Ukraine of two banks which was a huge task that resulted in a lot of sleepless nights. Finally, in 2017 I was involved in the establishment and negotiation of a strategic partnership with PAG Asia Capital, one of Asia’s largest private equity firms, with the aim of supporting the long-term development of Home Credit’s business, especially in China, which was believed to be almost impossible given the complexity of deal structure’. As for what general rules he has learned for practicing as a senior in-house counsel effectively, given his immense experience at such a high profile organisation, Rozehnal believes one should be in control at all times. ‘If I was to give advice to an up-and-coming in-house lawyer’, he outlines, ‘I would tell them that they must understand numbers. It really matters to understand the economics of the business, as without this you cannot be a good lawyer. On top of this: please listen and don’t overreact. All matters that end up on the table have solutions, so you can’t afford to panic. Take a deep breath and consider your options in order to find a solution’.
Founded in 2002, Ciklum is a global Ukrainian software engineering and technology partner that delivers software engineering excellence to Fortune 500 and fast-growing organisations around the world. After a successful 14 year private practice career at top law firms, the tri-lingual Anna Ryzhova joined Ciklum as legal counsel in 2014. Since then Ryzhova has excelled in delivering business legal advice on range of company projects. Some of her most notable inclusions include helping Ciklum expand its global footprint by setting up new entities and offices in Poland, Romania and Spain as well as covering legal matters relating to the Ukrainian Redevelopment Fund’s acquisition of a significant equity stake in Ciklum in 2015. Ryzhova obtained a Master’s in international commercial law in 2003 from the University of Pittsburgh in 2003.
With over ten years of in-house experience, Mihaela Scarlatescu stands out for her success as a leader in the pharmaceutical industry with a wide range of previous experience in representing clients in various fields of activity, involving real estate competition, labour legislation and commercial litigation. Scarlatescu’s professional activity is completed with over ten years of specialisation in all branches of the pharma industry: manufacturing, promoting, regulatory, wholesale and retail. Due to the challenge and opportunity of being ethical whilst creative in a highly regulated field, Scarlatescu explains that this multi-faceted quality of the sector makes the pharmaceutical industry her ‘guilty passion’ giving the opportunity to ‘be innovative, proactive and reactive at the same time’. An example of one of these occasions is during the financial crisis, when more than 1,000 pharmacies became bankrupt due to the late payment from the National Public Health Insurance house for drug producers and drug distributors. It became a challenge to sell products and recover the debts which required Scarlatescu to coordinate court procedures where necessary, adopting a tailored approach to handle more than 500 court cases. The company succeeded not only to recover cash flow important for continuing company operations, but also in gaining the trust and respect of other pharmacies in the market. In the last 18 months Scarlatescu has been instrumental on the acquisition of more than 80 pharmacies despite the sensitive pharmaceutical environment, managing to accomplish targets in a very short period in addition to completing a large-scale complex real estate project. Managing a legal team of 15 members, Scarlatescu has impressed peers by leading the department in carrying out all the legal activity of the Group, encompassing the operations of 20 companies in 7 countries with 4,500 employees that manufacture and retail the latest medicines.
With vast resources, German conglomerate Siemens is able to recruit the most talented counsels for senior legal positions within its organisation. Managing legal topics for Siemens in Austria and 19 assigned countries in the Central and Eastern European region is general counsel Thomas Schobel. Over the course of his 20 years of professional experience, Schobel has worked on a number of significant projects and transactions for internal and external clients. In his current role, which he assumed in 2013, Schobel heads a dedicated team of 60 plus legal counsels and contract managers on a range of matters and practise areas. In his previous role as board counsel and head of group legal between 2010 and 2013 at Hypo Group Alpe Adria, Schobel was credited with restructuring the entire banking group following its nationalisation whilst enhancing assets, liabilities and capital base and was a key player in the divestiture of core and non-core assets. Having also worked at top US law firm Sullivan and Cromwell in New York, the Appellate Court of Vienna and the universities of Vienna and Münster in academic roles, Schobel can boast a celebrated and diverse legal career so far.
A high-powered lawyer with a formidable legal skillset built from operating at the upper echelons of the profession, Katie Schoultz is a hugely respected legal professional who transitioned from an incredibly successful private practice career to the in-house counsel ranks in January 2015. Based in the Czech Republic since 2001, she worked with White & Case for six years before starting her own firm, Schoultz & Partners in 2007, where she practiced for seven years before leaving to take on her current role as group general counsel of Prague-based multinational logistics powerhouse P3Logistic Parks. Schoultz now oversees a team of dedicated in-house lawyers that handle legal matters for twelve European jurisdictions, with a nominating source commenting that she and the team ‘specialise in warehouse investment, development and management’. On top of this, Schoultz is active in extra-curricular activities aimed at making the legal profession fairer and more just. In particular, a nominating source praised her ‘special interest in women’s issues, particularly women in business and the changing role of women in Czech society, as well as anti-corruption initiatives’. This speaks to a conscientiousness and altruism that undoubtedly informs her excellent corporate credentials; it is no wonder Schoultz is held in such regard by her peers.
Established 105 years ago as Albania’s state telecommunications services company, Albtelecom has grown into the country’s largest fixed-line telephone business operating a fibre optic network throughout all major Albanian cities. Having been employed for nearly 17 years within Albtelecom’s legal department chief legal, regulation and competition officer, Ervin Shpori, has been an important participant in all important milestones in the country’s recent history, such as the company’s landmark 2007 privatisation. He also worked on the expansion of Albtelecom’s country-wide broadband network and its strategic merger with mobile communications provider Eagle Mobile. Besides his advanced knowledge of the telecommunications sector and the global system for mobile communications (GSM) market, Shpori receives praise from industry peers for his skills in intellectual property, his ability to formulate business strategy and his advanced leadership merit.
Srdjan Sisic currently serves as the legal director for Telenor Serbia, Telenor’s wholly owned subsidiary and the country’s largest mobile operator. Sisic has consistently displayed his competence by being dually responsible for the two markets of Serbia and Montenegro, a role he has found equally challenging and rewarding. ‘It very challenging to remotely lead two legal departments with two different legal systems and court organisation’. Sisic explains. Nevertheless during his time at Telenor Serbia, Sisic has never failed to empower his team to their maximum potential, helping them prioritise tasks and achieve the best results. This has led him to significantly reduce the number of court cases by over 50% as a result of implementing process and procedure improvements. Internally, he has also facilitated a number of processes by creating templates for regular daily use by the business. An example of this is his creation of preapproved templates which can be used repeatedly with no need for additional checks from the legal department. ‘It is all about prevention, education, and awareness – as long as you have a developed processes and procedures you can be sure that the number of court cases significantly decrease’. Sisic was also key in the acquisition of Telenor Bank, formerly known as KBC Bank on the Serbian market, an important deal that contributes to bringing more advanced financial services to Serbian customers.
Nominated for his outstanding advice to leading pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, Łukasz Sławatyniec dispenses commercially-minded, timely and accurate legal advice in his role of general counsel for the Central and Eastern European region in the company. Sławatyniec was praised by nominators during the research period for his oversight of ‘matters related to [the] promotion, market access, distribution and supply chain, clinical trials and all other legal aspects of doing business by pharmaceutical companies. He works both with internal customers and external legal counsel’. Before joining Eli Lily in 2015, Sławatyniec held positions in private practice at major international law firms before heading the pharmaceutical and healthcare practice at Deloitte Legal, and is a keen contributor to the development of the Polish legal world outside his general counsel role. He is also a lecturer at The University of Warsaw holding classes in press and copyright law.
In charge of a compact but highly efficient team, Martin Strnad operates a very close relationship with other business units and favours a policy of collaboration at all times. Preferring to keep as much legal work in-house as possible, Strnad has become a master of dealing with the myriad issues that a software company such as Y Soft encounters, and only tends to outsource international and contentious work. Previously a private practice lawyer with Havel, Holásek & Partners of Prague, Strnad was also a managing associate with PwC Legal before making the moving in-house to head the legal function at Y Soft in early 2016.
Since joining PZL Mielec, a subsidiary of the American aircraft manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, in 2009 Wojciech Stromczynski has worked on providing day-to-day advice and timely resolution of issues that arise in commercial relationships, accomplishing strategic deals in a highly dynamic international and legal environment. ‘I have supported these cross-border transactions as a prime member of the team and as a subject matter expert’, Stromczynski states. Adding, ‘regardless, of the nature of the international transaction, I have learned a number of things to help facilitate a smooth landing of the deal’. A notable example of Stromczynski’s recent pedigree is his advice to a number of foreign and domestic foreign companies regarding tender proceedings in the defence industry under the Polish legal regime. The scope of the project involved the acquisition of multirole helicopters for the Polish Ministry of National Defence and EU legislation on such procurements. Stromczynski also stands out with his work on systemically changing his legal team’s mind set by introducing a strategy focused on introducing methods for conducting legal work in a more efficient and effective way. In addition, under Stromczynski’s watch traditional legal services have been replaced with e-legal solutions and an automated e-Agreement system has been introduced. Stromczynski and his colleagues are currently exploring possibilities to roll out more complex e-legal chains, aiming according to Stromczynski ‘to standardise services that do not need to be done by a legal counsel in person’.
Starting off as a legal advisor within the Polish business of Samsung Electronics in 2014, Mirosław Świerk has quickly progressed through its ranks, taking charge of the entire legal function in March 2016. Impressing consistently over the last three years with his leadership skills and in-depth understanding of several areas of the law, Świerk has forged a formidable legal function, streamlining its work through the introduction of new structures and schemes of organisational interactions for the provision of comprehensive legal support. At present, besides handling routine legal tasks, Świerk is actively engaged in overseeing crisis management of the legal department, cooperation with international structures of Samsung and supervision of the compliance function. He also works proactively with senior management to provide strategic legal advice on important issues. Recently, as an example, Świerk has overseen the opening of a new production line at its plant in Wronki at a cost of PLN 390m. Świerk’s previous career features stints at Wyborowa, US Pharmacia, Colgate Palmolive and Lumena.
Stanisława Świst-Zawada leads a team of 12 individuals at insurance company LINK4, a company she returned to in October 2016 after a previous nine-year tenure there from 2002 to the end of 2011. She started as a sales consultant for the company but within five years had gained promotions to become head of legal. Regarding this, Świst-Zawada says, ‘it was a great opportunity for me but also a great challenge’, adding, ‘I was promoted to the role responsible for all legal issues within the company without any previous experience in legal teams and I had to learn how to manage problems, people and suppliers from scratch’. By handling this great challenge, Świst-Zawada demonstrated an array of legal skills, gaining recognition from both internal and external peers in the process. Particularly significant developments she has worked on at LINK4 include the acquisition of the company by RSA Group, which involved significant internal restructurings, and participating on the establishment of a new insurance subsidiary company. ‘As a head of legal of both the mother company and its subsidiary, I was responsible for supporting the business and management whilst fulfilling legal requirements connected with establishing a new company and ensuring compliance of the company’s procedures, processes and products to applicable laws and regulations’, she explains. Between 2013 and 2016, Świst-Zawada spent time at both Liberty Mutual Group and AXA Group, following the latter’s acquisition of the former’s Polish operations. She created the legal and compliance functions at Liberty and played a key role on the acquisition by AXA claiming it was, ‘the biggest and most complex transaction in my professional life’. Elaborating on this, she says, ‘I was responsible for the legal and compliance areas at that time in Liberty Poland and I had to ensure that all legal issues connected with the transfer were managed properly – there was of course external law firm who supported the Group with the transfer agreement, but all operational issues were managed internally’. With such transactions under her belt, it is easy to see why Świst-Zawada is regarded as a legal expert who can deliver in challenging circumstances.
A highly-respected in-house legal counsel Maciej Szczepański has a formidable academic legal resume to accompany his significant professional achievements. Aside from postgraduate and doctoral studies in a range of subjects gained around Europe and the US, he is also looking to add an executive MBA qualification to his arsenal over the coming months. His professional career shows a corresponding aptitude to succeed in a variety of areas. Szczepański spent time in Polish district courts and as a private practice lawyer before moving to in-house roles. Prior to his current employment, he worked with e-commerce company Allegro Group before being taken on by the international online advertising organisation, OLX Group Poland. Here, he operates as head of legal for its NASPERS subsidiary, and fulfils a demanding day-to-day legal brief despite being only a little over a decade into his career.
Anna Szczodra-Kowalczyk has a reputation within the in-house market as a ‘very capable general counsel who has deep expertise of the market’ and is a ‘reliable, operative and very trustworthy lawyer’ according to nominating sources. She is also considered to be ‘very precise in terms of expressing her requirements from outside counsel but also very fair in judgment, goal-oriented and very skilful in handling very large processes’. Managing a team in an extremely efficient way, Szczodra-Kowalczyk is comfortable managing and communicating with not only in-house and external legal staff but with technical and other business teams. Working within an environment filled with very complex innovative regulatory issues which require insight into the technical aspects of the energy business can be challenging for most in-house lawyers. But as another nominator says: ‘[Szczodra-Kowalczyk] has exceptional ability to facilitate such cooperation and to translate complex legal issues into the reality of business operations. I have been working with her on very demanding environmental regulatory issues and it has always been a pleasure to cooperate with her in searching for business oriented solutions’. A trusted business adviser, she is known to have steered EDF through a ‘difficult period of divestment’ by EDF and on the acquisition by state treasury-controlled Polska Grupa Energetyczna. In addition she is capable of dealing with the new regulatory regime that posed ‘many difficult legal implications’. An in-house lawyer comfortable with senior business management, she cooperates ‘very closely’ with the management board of the company and she is member of the Board of Directors, where she has the opportunity to ‘have [a] real impact on the firm’s strategy’. Szczodra-Kowalczyk recently assisted on a ‘complex and complicated’ infrastructural project and in doing so was ‘in charge of the significant organisational changes within the company structure’, building a ‘competent and very efficient team of lawyers within the EDF’s group in Poland’. One of her nominators glowingly informs us that, ‘her legal knowledge is extensive, and constantly being widened, while an ability of perspective thinking is also her advantage. Her characteristic features are creativity and an ability to sense market trends. Thanks to her knowledge, entrepreneurship and attitude, she implements the highest standards of legal services’.
As Borealis’ chief legal and procurement officer, Katja Tautscher is accountable for all legal affairs, insurance matters as well as the ethics and compliance programme for the entire Group. Tautscher joined the company, which is Europe’s second and the world’s eighth largest producer of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), in 2008 as general counsel. But having impressed on a number of fronts, she was promoted to her current position in 2014. As part of the promotion and demonstrating the trust the company places in her, she was appointed to the company’s “CEO Roundtable” of executive board members. So far Tautscher has streamlined the legal team’s work significantly by using automated processes and tools for operational matters and, through a dedicated business partner and competence centre concept, ensured each business has a dedicated point of contact who is sufficiently involved in business matters to understand their legal requirements. She is credited for working on the company’s successful litigation defence against purchasers of a proprietary polyethylene product, Borecene, in a claim worth £250m. She also played a leading role on setting up Borealis’ recent joint ventures with Adnoc (the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) and a memorandum of understanding with Total and Nova for a new joint ventures in the US. ‘These transactions are significant because they expand Borealis’ geographical scope far beyond Europe. For the legal department they are significant, because they prove our international focus and the ability to (tackle complex and diverse transactions’, says Tautscher. Proving her worth to the strategic goals of the company, in 2016 Tautscher helped finalise a transaction to buy all shares in a recycling company called mtm. ‘While the transaction was small in scope, it is a very important step into the recycling of plastics area, and ground-breaking for Borealis’, she explains.
One of the largest companies in the country, Naftogaz of Ukraine is a leading fuel and energy company engaged in the full cycle for the production and distribution of gas and oil and plays an important social role by supplying natural gas to households, budget-funded institutions and utilities in Ukraine at prices set by the state. With particular skills in handling litigation, bankruptcy and restructuring, IPR and tax laws, Yaroslav Teklyuk has been Naftogaz’s director for legal affairs since April 2014. In 2017, Teklyuk has gained significant industry acclaim for his role in the successful high-value arbitration case with Gazprom, an extremely important case with far-reaching political ramifications. Accroding to nominators, neither the impact of this decision nor Teklyuk’s role in it can be underestimated. His role in Naftogaz securing a loan facility worth €478m in 2016 from Citibank and Deutsche Bank to facilitate gas supplies from Europe is highlighted by nominators as another example of Teklyuk’s skills and successful tenure. Prior to joining Naftogaz, Teklyuk served for eight years at Vasil Kisil and Partners, where he was a partner for four years.
Having accrued over two decades of experience at notable financial institution Raiffeisen Bank, it is evident that Zita Tihanyi – in the role of the bank’s head of legal and compliance – is one of an elite group of in-house lawyers that has had a demonstrable business impact on a business for such a long period of time. A legal professional with substantial corporate governance and compliance experience, Tihanyi’s specialties include a deep knowledge of all applicable banking, commercial, competition and employment laws, whilst she is also praised for her management and leadership of various professionals – spanning both legal and financial sectors. Before joining Raiffeisen Bank in 1995 and developing an almost unrivalled knowledge of the company’s operations, Tihanyi spent two years in private practice after graduating from Eötvös Loránd University in 1995.
Abfall Service is Austria’s leading waste management company, providing broad general waste solutions for the municipal, industrial, commercial and retail sectors as well as for domestic households. In the capacity of head of group legal and compliance officer, since November 2014 Trauttenberg has been responsible for legal matters in eight jurisdictions. Trauttenberg is well suited to managing cross-border legal affairs for prominent institutions having dedicated the vast majority of his professional legal career to in-house roles at top companies. He currently works with counsels based in each of the eight jurisdictions to understand and mitigate regulatory impacts on the company’s business operations. His most recent significant professional activities includes working on Abfall’s successful contract extension with ARA and obtaining an integrated permit for a landfill in Serbia. With language skills in English, French, German and Spanish, Trauttenberg is a talented individual with particular skills in due diligence, M&As and contract negotiations.
Tatra is an extremely prestigious Czech company, being the second-longest running automobile manufacturer in the world. It has pioneered a number of innovations in the industry since its inception, including manufacturing the first aerodynamically-designed car and producing the first factory-manufactured cars in Central and Eastern Europe. Now, the company focuses on trucks, and produces a number of models popular for their reliability. General counsel Libor Vojtek has an unparalleled understanding of the company, having joined over two decades ago in September 1996. He is proud of the role he has played in this historic company that is well-liked by automotive enthusiasts. Vojtek is keen to point out that his day to day legal work is very varied, and encompasses many areas from IP to employment law and corporate deals and governance. As a general rule, Vojtek’s approach when considering which issues to tackle internally against those that should be given to external counsel is that the lion’s share of non-contentious legal work be kept in-house, where the high-priced skills of private practice lawyers are most efficiently taken advantage of. Vojtek’s immense experience in dealing with the demanding workload at this historic Czech company places him among the top in-house lawyers in the Czech Republic and the wider region.
Headquartered in Austria and with a history dating back almost 80 years, Lenzing Group is a world leader in supplying the global textile and nonwovens industry with high-quality, botanic cellulose fibres. In the capacity of general counsel, head of group strategy and group compliance officer, Florian Wirth has been involved in a number of recent cross-border projects aimed at expanding Lenzing’s global presence. In 2017 alone, the company has opened a new state-of-the-art fibre and fabric testing centre for the development of new applications, invested into Thailand by starting construction on a state-of-the-art lyocell fibre production plant and invested over €100m in new production capabilities in Austria. As a trusted legal business adviser, Wirth has had involvement on all of these activities and his efforts over the course of his tenure at Lenzing has contributed to the Group recording the best quarterly and half-year financial results in its history earlier this year.
‘An extremely well-rounded and adaptable in-house legal professional’, is how one nominator describes Dominik Wolski, director of the legal department for Poland at food and consumer products group Jerónimo Martins. His work in the recent past has included ‘combatting unfair competition, M&As, corporate service, and international contracts, but also law enforcement monitoring, compliance, team management, recruitment, and training’. A deeply knowledgeable lawyer, Wolski is not only an outstanding corporate lawyer but has also spent time working and achieving his PHD whilst also devoting time as an academic lecturer. He also ‘is the author of a number of publications in the areas of civil law, private international law, European law, tourism law, competition law and combating unfair competition. Member, expert and representative of many organisations, project participants and international teams. Speaker at many conferences, workshops and trainings’.
Bacardi is served in the Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa regions by legal director Mateusz Wrzesinski, who brought almost a decade of top international law firm experience upon joining the multinational alcoholic drinks producer in 2012. Wrezesinski accrued private practice experience in the areas of M&As, corporate, private equity, employment as well as capital markets working with a broad spectrum of clients. In terms of his current role, Wrzesinski is particularly proud of the increased geographical remit he has taken over, particularly when Russia – the largest market in the region – was added to his responsibilities in 2016. Wrzesinski says he found this ‘very rewarding and challenging at the same time’. He also notes increased managerial responsibility and the scope for growth with which this afforded him, calling it a ‘truly gratifying’ experience, as well as the way he created the legal function in Eastern Europe from scratch to form it into a ‘more accessible, flexible team considered as innovative and first of all a relevant [partner] to business operations’. Noteworthy projects on the part of Wrzesinski include a ‘massive’ tax optimisation project for the cross-country introduction of a new formula for one of Bacardi’s key brands, setting up a subsidiary for Central Asia in Kazakhstan and the introduction of an ‘innovative’ third party distributors “pay for performance” model. Covering such a wide remit, means he covers legal issues ‘related to more than 50 markets’. Wrzesinski cites ‘unpredictable external factors’ as posing challenges to the smooth navigation of the company through its legal risk profile, some relevant examples including ‘a financial crisis in Russia, Ukraine and Greece, failed attempt of political coup in Turkey with its subsequent repercussions, Brexit and unexpected regulatory changes’. Despite these challenges, Wrzesinski believes that ‘international law, cross-border projects, comparative analysis [and] finding tailored legal solutions has always been of interest’ and that ‘lawyering in a global context is simply fun’. As a member of Bacardi’s core leadership team, Wrzesinski is proof that legal is viewed as a strategic partner by all front line and support functions, and he explains his view of the evolution of the in-house role as being tied to the ‘combination of deep cognitive, analytical skills in tandem with broad multidisciplinary and social skills’. He adds that to succeed: ‘In-house counsel must be ready to successfully navigate a host of non-legal roles, including being a senior executive, active leader and strategist, guardian of integrity and reputation, compliance office, diplomat, project manager, external affairs adviser, decision making analyst or crisis manager. Simultaneously, of course, one should never forget its core function as legal counsel and defendant of company’s assets and interests’.
The Israeli multinational pharmaceutical company Teva Pharmaceuticals recently solidified its position as the leading generic drug manufacturer in the world by completing the acquisition of Actavis Generics (the generic drug business of Allergan). The company’s Polish subsidiary is now a leading player in the local drug and dietary market, operating a portfolio of medical products which include: specialised drugs, generic drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients. A lawyer with vast regulatory and intellectual property expertise, Mirosław Zapała keeps up to date with relevant developments in the sector to protect Teva’s existing portfolio and to push new products in the local market. Despite widespread ethical problems on the global pharmaceutical market, Teva’s Polish subsidiary has ensured high standards of business ethics and compliance with applicable laws, a goal largely attributed to Zapała and his team. Prior to taking the helm of the legal department nearly 12 years ago, Zapała led the Polish legal department of the largest Croatian pharmaceutical company PLIVA.
We at Kochanski Zieba & Partners are very pleased to congratulate the general counsel who have been admitted to The Legal 500’s first GC Powerlist: Central and Eastern Europe. It is a privilege to support and facilitate a publication that celebrates the in-house function in a geographical region which is growing in significance.
We also wish to congratulate the nominated general counsels who this year did not make it to the list.
With a combined population of just under 200 million (roughly the equivalent of the UK, France and Germany combined), Central and Eastern Europe is a major legal market. It is easy to forget that many of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have only existed as free markets for a period of no more than 30 years. The progress that has been made in this time is nothing short of remarkable.
The general counsels that have made it on this year’s list reflect this progress. An increasing number of multinational companies have established a dedicated in-house legal function to the Central and Eastern Europe market.
Moreover, there has been considerable recent growth in companies and funds operating in various industry sectors, emanating from the Central and Eastern European region now conducting business in the wider global economy. In-house lawyers at Central and Eastern European companies and funds now find themselves on a par with Western European and US in-house counsel in terms of the demands placed on them. To a greater extent they find themselves coordinating international legal teams, and are more and more involved in strategic decision making.
With a changing geopolitical and macroeconomic climate, the past year has been especially challenging. General counsels have needed to be abreast of legal developments and be adept at positively reacting to these, which makes this year’s list of counsels especially deserving of recognition.
Our firm is shaped to stand alongside our Polish clients from their inception and to provide comprehensive expert assistance to their general ounsel and in-house teams in the long term, to assist them in achieving their goals and objectives. It is our conviction that preserving long-standing relationships, allows us to understand their business and industry better, to understand their objectives, and in doing so we are not only able to adapt accordingly, but more importantly, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a fully trusted relationship at every step of their development both in Poland and on the international market.
An in-depth understanding of the Polish and Central European market means that we are also well-placed to assist in-house counsel of international companies and funds that operate in Poland, including those that have existed on the Polish market for some time, as well as those taking their first steps in what can be a volatile new market. Our aim is to pass on our knowledge, to educate, to foresee problems before they arise and to aid general counsels in the performance by adding value to their functions at every stage.
We look forward to continuing our good working relationships with general counsel, and embrace the possibility of working with general counsel that we are yet to have the opportunity of working with.
Once again, huge congratulations to everyone that made this year’s GC Powerlist: Central and Eastern Europe.
Aequo is honoured to partner with this very first GC Powerlist: Central and Eastern Europe. On behalf of our team – congratulations to the corporate counsels, dedicated legal professionals and in-house teams of the region recognised by this international ranking!
In the world’s ocean of data, The Legal 500 has gained a strong reputation as one of the most reputable, reliable and long-established sources of information enabling in-house counsel to make the right choice in selecting external legal advisors in many areas of expertise across various jurisdictions worldwide. It is often the case that clients view The Legal 500’s recognition as one of the key criteria in when selecting its legal panel.
Closely collaborating with general counsels, we appreciate the fact that the job of in-house lawyers is more challenging than ever before. Today, Ukraine is gaining much stronger momentum. It is open for business and improving its investment climate. GCs are becoming crucial to the success of local and international business.
Large-scale judicial, banking sector, corporate, competition and IP legislation reforms are all part of the government’s agenda aimed at deregulating entrepreneurial activity, improving the business climate, enhancing public sector governance and ensuring harmonisation of Ukrainian legislation with EU regulations. We are honoured to contribute to these reforms, as change of this magnitude will lay the foundations for long-term economic growth. As a result of these unprecedented reforms, in the first half of 2017 capital investment exceeded pre-crisis levels in Ukraine. This positive outcome is strengthening the position of Ukraine in the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking.
In addition to legislative reforms, there is a boost in innovations in legal business. Albeit at its nascent stage, legaltech is also changing the way legal services are delivered and helping to ensure a competitive edge. Investment in legaltech is growing in Central and Eastern Europe. Law firms are looking for new ways of improving efficiency due to budget pressures and growing workloads.
At Aequo, we strongly believe and invest in innovations driving legal market growth. Recently we launched a first-of-a-kind outsourcing platform, AEQUO Friends. It’s focus is to react promptly to unplanned increases in work volumes, enhance business processes and improve the client care experience, as well as to build an effective talent pool and to ensure effective outstaffing of lawyers to clients in the future.
The launch of AEQUO Legal Tech Challenge, an annual innovation competition in legal services, pursues a number of ambitious goals challenging traditional views on the provision of legal services, and developing the legal industry through innovation and technology by creating an innovation-friendly environment in Ukraine.
In addition, Aequo’s initiative, the easy-to-use Rate Your Judge App – an efficient ranking tool to monitor the judicial system – has already gained recognition and a number of awards. Rate Your Judge App aims to provide legal professionals with a unique opportunity to rate and review the performance of judges, and track their interactions with them.
All these initiatives are changing the legal industry in a consistent way with growing expectations of general counsels, whose role is increasingly taking centre-stage. It is great to see The Legal 500 GC Powerlist: Central and Eastern Europe recognising this important development.
We are honoured to be the Hungarian partner of the inaugural GC Powerlist CEE.
We would like to congratulate all those, who made it into the top 100 in the whole region. CEE – while consisting of a number of independent jurisdictions – is a group of countries that is often viewed and dealt with by investors as one, and thus during the many years of our work, we have had the opportunity to work together with a number of GCs not only from Hungary, but also from the other CEE countries.
There is a natural flow of talent from high-profile law firms to GC positions (and also the other way) and we are proud that we have been able to grow talented people who are now highly respected GCs, and some of them have even made it to the top 100!
During the past decade or so, the work of GCs and in-house counsel has become more and more difficult and widespread; they typically have a stronger role in decision-making processes, they are often members of the board or the important decision-making/management bodies and there is another major field that they are often responsible for (though these tasks nowadays tend to get separated and given to a standalone department), ie compliance, which itself has grown into a much larger set of tasks than what it used to be only a few years ago. Needless to say, being a GC today is much more challenging than it used to be 10 years ago.
Since the fall of communism, Hungary has been a hub for many multinationals for their CEE operations (in the early ‘90s, Budapest’s only contender was Prague; this has changed since) or often for an even wider geographical scope and many have established their SCCs here. This means that many Hungarian GCs are often in charge of managing lawyers in a number of other jurisdictions in addition to running the Hungarian legal team.
Not only has the rapidly changing legal environment (let’s just name GDPR and the more and more vigorous competition law authorities and practice, as two new emerging difficulties for in-house counsel) resulted in new and new challenges for GCs, but so does the rather adverse attitude of the Hungarian government towards multinationals and foreign investors. In times, when the Hungarian PM’s main purpose seems to be to establish a totally new elite from family and friends, and enable these new oligarchs to be strong competitors to those who have been on the market for the past 15-20 years,
life for multinationals and foreign investors gets tough and it is often the locals who are expected not only to explain to their foreign colleagues what is going on and how that could be done, but also to help find ways to overcome these very difficult situations.
All these pose difficulties to GCs and so do to us, who try and assist GCs and their corporations in navigating the Hungarian legal landscape. Nevertheless, more difficulties mean more intellectual challenges for all of us and we enjoy working with such great counsels on trying to counterbalance the state’s and the oligarchs’ pressure.
We once again congratulate the GCs who got listed among the top 100 and hope to meet most of them in beautiful, historic Prague.
Sponsor – Romania
Gelu Maravela, Managing partner
Alina Popescu, Managing partner
Maravela|Asociații is thrilled to be the partner of the very first GC Powerlist focused on Central and Eastern Europe.
We are happy to see that The Legal 500 is dedicating this edition to the CEE region and we warmly congratulate all acknowledged GCs!
Today’s GCs are business enablers and a key factor for excellent cooperation between corporations and external counsels. They translate legal views into practical business-oriented guidance that enables success. They oversee budgets, mediate between law and business and handle challenging external relationships in an ever-changing law firm landscape.
We hereby reiterate our sincere congratulations to each and every nominated individual and extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation to all GCs we have worked with throughout our careers.
GC Powerlist is a trading name of The Legal 500 Series and Legalease Ltd, and operates in multiple legal jurisdictions worldwide.