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Panagiotis Chiotelis, Managing Partner

Managing partner Panagiotis Chiotelis explains how Chiotelis & Co is adapting to clients' changing needs.

1. What do you see as the main points that differentiate Chiotelis & Co from your competitors?

There are a few attributes to the firm that I believe differentiate in some respects the firm from its competitors. One is that the firm can still be described as “a small big firm”. The size is moderate if not small with 10 fee earners, however the quality -in terms of complexity, publicity and quantum- of the caseload is in equal par with the traditional big “City” firms you meet for example in London. Yet the client benefits in terms of flexible hourly rates and billing techniques, as well as fast response and service beyond traditional hours and dates.

A second attribute is that the firm provides full representation and consultation in both Greek and English Law and there are clients that do appreciate this “one stop” service in particular.  

I will mention one more aspect of the way the firm works that also makes a difference: The firm always charges an agreed hourly flat rate and every case is always attended by one senior lawyer as well as reviewed by senior Consultants that come from the Judiciary. Practically the more junior lawyers spend the same time as the senior ones on a client. Many clients confess to us “bad” experiences they had in the past with very big law firms, in terms of quality, but they fail to realize that if you go to a very big firm you should not be asking for discounts, because in that way you oblige the partner in charge to push the bulk of the work to his junior colleagues.

2. Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

Our caseload depends on the condition the shipping market is in. We saw an increase in the international charterparty disputes caseload in the recent past and this was driven by the low freight rates. We envisage that this increase in the caseload will continue this year too. Apart from the “offshore” business, we anticipate an increase in corporate /commercial work for the year ahead in Greece and Piraeus in particular and the drive behind this is undoubtedly the Chinese factor. Chinese Cosco bought the majority shareholding in the biggest port in the country, i.e. Piraeus and the “take over” was linked with an obligation attached to Cosco to invest an amount near to half a billion United States Dollars in infrastructure. As this investment now unfolds, corporate/commercial work will be in demand and will benefit the local firms, including ours.

3. What is the main change you have made in the firm that will benefit the clients?

We have recently been certified with ISO 9001:2008 from Lloyds Register and we look forward to receiving the clients’ feedback at the end of this year, as we feel that the clients will feel the increased efficiency of the firm through the implementation of the ISO Quality Manuals, in terms of a) time saving in billing and b) time saving in retrieving information.

4. Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients and the services you can provide them?

Yes indeed. We feel far more comfortable nowadays than 5-6 years ago to deal with international clientele without the need to be near them physically and traveling –especially for closings in ship sale transactions- has been reduced too. This inevitably benefits the client in terms of costs. The only real limit now is that the day has 24 hours so you cannot work longer!

5. Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

A few years ago we acted for a cargo underwriter Consultant company based in Belgium. They were advising/consulting the largest French cargo insurance company in a tricky situation they faced under which the insured cargo of rice, which was destined to West Africa was trapped in a vessel arrested by a Bank. The cost of transshipment was huge and the prospects of massive claims from the receivers was imminent. The cargo underwriter Consultant approached us. In six months and without a single court hearing, we arranged and coordinated the purchase of the vessel by a client of the firm and the delivery of the cargo – admittedly beyond the original charterparty time limits- to all receivers without any claim be raised . The cargo underwriter Consultant added value to their business with our help, as we saw their problem from a practical rather than legal perspective. This kind of perspective pushes you to use all your resources for the benefit of the client.

6. Are the clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms - where do you see the firm in three years' time?

It is correct that clients are more pro active and wish to obtain from law firms, not only advice about the law but also a hint for a successful business and risk-reduction strategy. With an average fee earners age of just 35,4 years, the firm can only be described as a “young” one, so in the next three years this team can only get better. For the near future, we are not looking for any expansion in terms of representation or a branch overseas, however we do look into local strategic alliances.

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