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ZAB Deloitte Legal

Ilze Znotina, Managing partner

Ilze Znotina , Managing partner of Deloitte Legal in Latvia discusses how the firm is adapting to clients' changing needs.

What are the main points which differentiate Deloitte Legal in Latvia from its competitors?

We have a global presence, where our clients need us, with over 1,7500 legal professionals in more than 75 countries. Also, our ability to bundle legal services in different jurisdictions into a one-stop-shop package makes Deloitte Legal an appealing alternative to clients than other Latvian law offices.

Moreover, our services are interdisciplinary, covering all business issues. In cooperation with other Deloitte professionals in Tax, Consulting, ERS and Financial Advisory, we help our clients make informed decisions taking into account both legal and business considerations, as the issues faced by our clients are never purely legal. We also have wide-ranging and in-depth experience and understanding of sectors, industries and markets.

In terms of Banking, Finance and the Capital Market practice area Deloitte Legal is one of the leaders providing legal services to payment service institutions, especially in assisting with the licensing process. This, combined with a strong, client-focused and experienced FSI team lead by Ilze Znotina, gives us strength and edge over other Latvian law offices within this area. FSI team members Martins Puke and Aleksandra Bazarova, who have extensive experience in numerous FSI engagements, represent both banking and finance practice clients in a very efficient way. Working in collaboration with a team of approximately 140 experienced lawyers located across our member firm network allows us to assist in both local and cross-border projects, ensuring that all the legal business needs of our clients within this industry are met.

What practices do see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

We see our Energy and Regulation & Compliance practices growing in the next 12 months and we are currently building our strong project portfolio within the mentioned practice areas.

In 2015 we have recruited Dace Cirule, who is very experienced in energy law, to expand our practice in the Energy industry. Our professionals specialize in various areas including oil, gas, power, water, mining, shipping and ports. The Deloitte Legal energy practice consists of attorneys at law and lawyers with extensive experience in the energy sector which allows us to understand the unique technical, geographical and commercial factors influencing the Energy industry. Our team provides professional advice in legislative, political and regulatory issues, advises on strategic planning and development, as well as financing and permitting matters. Our experience and knowledge have been recognized during several cases of amendments to the present legal regulatory acts of Ministries, the Government and the Parliament. Our experienced professionals have already been assigned to significant engagements in this area. I firmly believe that our growth in this area will continue and we will become one of the leading Latvian law offices in the Energy industry.

Our law office also holds a Regulatory & Compliance practice area as an area of priority. We assist our clients with AML, KYC and FATCA related issues and provide services as due diligence of the AML/KYC program, development of AML strategy and the AML compliance program. The focus on this area is due to the trends in the FSI industry and recent surge of new regulations adopted by the Latvian financial supervision authority. Our focus on AML is fairly unique in Latvia and differentiates our law office from our competitors as we have the possibility

What’s the main change that you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

We have divided our team not only by services lines but also by industry. Each team has a leader, which is responsible for keeping the entire team on top of news and trends within industries. I strongly believe that this approach is successful because it allows us to look at what issues our clients are facing not only from a legal point of view but also taking into consideration trends, news and developments in the relevant industry. Furthermore, this approach allows us to spot threats and opportunities for our clients early on, which gives us a competitive edge. We are not waiting until our clients have faced a problem or have found an opportunity. Our aim is to be proactive in preventing any issues and proactively reach out to the clients when we see opportunities in their industries.

All our projects are allocated to the professionals who hold the most appropriate experience to deal with the relevant case and have the best knowledge of the client’s industry. This approach ensures enthusiasm for each client’s case and allows us to find innovative solutions and do our best to provide our clients with the desirable outcome and legal services of outstanding quality.

How is technology changing the way you interact with your clients and the services you can provide them?

Technology has not only changed the way we interact with our clients but also the services we can offer them. Digital natives are used to obtaining the information our clients need online. There is a substantial amount of information on our website such as the International Dismissal Survey or the legal topics, news, tax information and perspective articles from multiple countries in the successful Deloitte tax@hand app. We are also now moving towards an interactive presentation of information about legal topics.

Staying on top of all the legal issues for day-to-day activities and corporate life events in many jurisdictions is a challenge, especially in this current environment. That was a reason why Deloitte Legal launched Dbriefs – to help gain insights on key legal trends and critical issues affecting global business operations which can be also viewed on an iPad, iPhone, and Android device anywhere at your convenience. Thus, with Dbriefs it is possible to stay connected with the most topical business issues while a person is in transit at the airport, on a plane, commuting in the subway, or even at the gym. And if someone misses a webcast, they can always watch an archived webcasts on a mobile devices, which continues to be available for 180 days after the live broadcast.

Can you give a practical example of how you’ve helped a client add value to their business?

We assisted our client to initiate the litigation process and raised a claim for damages in total amount of EUR 500,000 against the debtor company, its beneficial owners and the board of the debtor. Since one of our team members Martins Ziemanis is a certified mediator, who specializes in commercial mediation, our law office advised the client to use mediation as an alternative dispute resolution. If the client would have decided to proceed with the litigation process it would take several years. Moreover, the litigation process involves additional costs for legal services and negative publicity with no guarantee of a positive outcome. On the other hand, mediation is quicker, cheaper and ensures confidentiality. By using the mediation technique the dispute was resolved in one month, the client received compensation for damages totalling almost the full amount and the parties have continued their cooperation. Therefore, by choosing the mediation technique we added value not only to the business of the client but also to the business of our client’s counterparty, which makes this case a success story.

The mentioned case also indicates that mediation is very useful for business since it allows parties involved in a dispute to continue their business relationship, which could be damaged as a result of court proceedings. As our aim is to meet clients’ business needs and our team members have not only outstanding legal experience but are also very business-minded lawyers, we see meditation as one of our growing practice areas in next few years. We strongly believe that commercial mediation is a key aspect of any dispute resolution and we will continue to develop this part of the business in Latvia.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

Clients are looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms. Our goal is to grow within the Latvian market and in three years become a Top 5 law office in Latvia by size, focusing particularly on practice areas such as Banking, Finance and Capital Market, Energy, Regulatory and Compliance, M&A and Corporate, Forensic & Fraud and Dispute Resolution.

We strongly believe that Deloitte’s global philosophy and the Deloitte Legal philosophy, which reflects the close cooperation of our professionals working on various projects, will help us achieve our goal of benefitting clients. The provision of legal services allows us to offer the client a wide range of services, including those exceeding the requirements that were originally specified by the client.

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