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Legal Market Overview

2019 saw great changes for the Polish legal market. The year started off with the acquisition by DWF Poland Jamka Sp.k of the Warsaw offices of K&L Gates and the split of domestic heavyweight Kochański Zięba & Partners to form Kochanski & Partners and Zieba & Partners. By the end of the year, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP implemented longstanding plans to leave Poland (its offices, after much speculation, deciding to go it alone under the brand Rymarz Zdort) and similarly, the management of Magnusson’s Polish offering opted to become independent from the international firm. There were also a number of changes at team level, most notably with Marek Sawicki and Jakub Marcinkowski leaving CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang Pośniak i Bejm sp.k. to join DLA Piper, and Robert Dulewicz moving from Dentons to Gide Loyrette Nouel to kick-start its debt capital markets team.

This upheaval reflects wider changes in the Polish economy. Lawyers report that there are far fewer premium M&A transactions on the market but vigorous activity at the mid-cap level. Not only are family businesses set up after the fall of Communism facing succession issues, but many owner-managed businesses are looking at expansion, consolidation and investment opportunities abroad. Private equity funds are also relatively active, although attractive deals in Poland have seen a slight decline outside of the real estate sector. On the other hand, venture and seed capital have seen steady growth, mainly focused on the country’s vibrant technology sector.

Away from the positives, there are a few issues to look out for. The Law and Justice Party, maintaining control of the Polish Sejm in the 2019 parliamentary elections despite losing the senate race, has vowed to continue its nationalisation project, encompassing utilities, transport and the banking sector. It has also taken a more vigorous stance on anti-corruption in a manner that caused stirs in the business community about the independence of the judiciary and enforcement authorities, following several high-profile arrests. With this backdrop, inward investment remains sluggish and the equity capital market has all but evaporated. Reflecting these worries, insurance lawyers note a marked uptick in the take-up of M&A-related warranty and indemnity insurance.

Finally, in this edition, we add a new section dedicated to data protection and data privacy. This is an area of increasing importance in Poland following the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, combined with robust domestic legislation that administers harsh penalties for data breaches. Practitioners are often instructed to assist with data protection audits to optimise solutions for individual businesses. There have also been moves to create a certification process and standardise codes of conduct. A number of domestic firms are well-placed to handle work in this area, Kobylańska Lewoszewski Mednis, Maruta Wachta sp. j. and Traple Konarski Podrecki & Partners standing out as particularly capable.