Event Report

In Vienna’s historic cultural centre within shouting distance of the famed opera house, The Legal 500 gathered 150 of the country’s top in-house lawyers for the second GC Summit Austria. Alongside them was an experienced cohort of private practice experts from our event partners – petsche pollak, Baker McKenzie, CERHA HEMPEL, Taylor Wessing and Wolf Theiss – who were on hand to dispense their wisdom via our six sessions covering a multitude of relevant topic areas.

Expertly kicking the summit off was a speaker who always gives an excellent showing, Stefan Wochinz of Vaillant. In his hugely well-received keynote speech, Wochinz spoke about building a rewarding and successful career as a general counsel, and outlined some key themes to be explored in later sessions.

Our first panel discussion followed. In this expansive discussion, Alina Alavi Kia and Roman Heidinger of CERHA HEMPEL provided the audience with a thorough overview of brand protection requirements in Austria and gave a roadmap for successfully shepherding a brand through new technological developments. Among other issues, best practice benchmarks for trademarks, anti-counterfeiting, and licensing in an increasingly digitalised world were discussed in detail.

Next on stage were Simone Petsche-Demmel and Andreas Pollak of petsche pollak Amanda Neil ofHead Group, Nicole Bäck-Knapp of Ecker & Partner and Alice Fremuth-of Nivalion. Featuring a speaker lineup boasting extremely diverse experience and a topic that opened up multiple avenues of conversation, this panel teased out a number of issues that were at the forefront of those in the audience. As new supply chain due diligence requirements began to take hold in Austria across Europe, strategies for ensuring business-as-usual were outlined.

The next session was a particularly enlightening one organised in partnership with Taylor Wessing. Their partners, Andreas Schütz and Axel von dem Bussche were joined by Alexander Sammer of The National Anti-Doping Agency, Dr. Peter Lohberger of Wiener Wohnen Hausbetreuung and Prof. Dr. Clemens Heitzinger, co-director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (CAIML) at TU Wien. With Schütz and von dem Bussche opening by outlining the legal framework, Sammer and Lohberger then provided the perspectives of government and corporate entities respectively. As one of the foremost experts on large language models and machine learning in the country, Heitzinger’s contributions to the discussion were particularly well-received by the audience. As well as giving a background into how GPT and other models work, he gave practical advice on how to utilise them responsibly and to their best effect in an in-house legal department.

Baker McKenzie then brought their expertise to bear on a topic that is growing in importance worldwide: carve-out transactions. Given that carve-outs tendto be more challenging than an acquisition of stand-alone businesses, the panel discussed the key structuring considerations as well as practical and legal issues that must be overcome. Those on stage (Philipp Stanek and Sophie Schubert of Baker McKenzie, Dr Franz Fazekas, of ams OSRAM of Hoerbiger Group of Companies and Klemens Keferboeck of Magna International) also focused on the planning, due diligence, and documentation of carve-out transactions and touched upon selected issues regarding effective integration.

Andrea Gritsch and Florian Kusznier of Wolf Theiss were joined on stage by Victoria Corley of Enery and Dr. Alexander Schall of Unicredit Bank for our final panel session, which took a broad look at M&A issues, focusing on the key challenges which clients and their advisers faced executing deals in the current climate. Both Corley and Dr. Schall provided insights into transactions they have been a part of in their prior careers, giving the audience an exclusive insight into how deals are handled by the in-house side at the strategic level.

Our final session was a wide-ranging presentation on white-collar crime by two of the best in the business: Simone Petsche-Demmel and Andreas Pollak. Based on their extensive experience, they rounded out the summit by outlining some of the cases they have been a part of, and brought attention to some potential pitfalls that in-house counsel should be mindful of.

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