fivehundred magazine > Interview with: Suciu Popa > A bad reputation is a killer

A bad reputation is a killer

Miruna Suciu and Luminita Popa discuss the importance of maintaining standards and why neither ethnicity nor gender should impact a lawyer’s advancement

How would you define your firm’s culture? How important is firm culture to you?

Our culture is based on several main values: contribute effortlessly to create long-lasting effects, make a difference by a positive approach, take the lead and engage to create solid results that will stand the test of time. The driving force of our success also thrives on the values of loyalty and ethics in doing business, and on cultivating a mindset for constant improvement.

Our mindful culture constantly reminds us what Suciu Popa should stand for, it guides our strategy and development, and it attracts and retains the exceptional professionals that align with us.

What are the biggest challenges facing firms of your size in Romania?

As a full-service business law firm acting in a somewhat unpredictable but very competitive market such as Romania, we believe important to deliver first-in-class services and results for our clients.

We engage with clients not only to find one-time solutions to their legal problems, but to help them integrate the legal strategy with their overall business goals and discover cross-functional approaches and synergies that give them a competitive advantage. We are mindful of the client’s various challenges on multiple fronts and we make availability, reachability, and efficiency our key differentiator.

Since its founding, what’s surprised you most about running your firm?

Running a firm involves wearing many hats and juggling with many different roles at the same time, from working alongside the team on clients’ files to generating and developing new business, to overseeing and getting involved in the admin, marketing and HR flows of the firm, which multiply significantly as the firm grows and expands.

There were hard times, but we never lost positive energy and enthusiasm. We start each day and new project as if it’s the first, and go every step of the way being convinced this is the best project we set out to do in our lives.

What challenges did you face as women establishing your own firm?

Fortunately, we didn’t face any specific challenges other than the usual ones start-ups and entrepreneurs generally face in any market. Being women in the profession did not prevent us at all from implementing our project nor has it hindered in any way our ability to get ahead in business.

Suciu Popa is drawing on the strong reputation built during 20 years of acting in the legal market, on its extraordinary team of professionals with whom we have constantly served a wide base of international and domestic corporate clients.

Complementing this incredible team and track record, we managed to place the firm in a top position in less than three years, and this has been confirmed by all major international legal publications, as well as by the international and domestic business community.

How have attitudes to diversity changed over the past 20 years? What still needs to happen to make the legal industry more inclusive?

We believe that, as legal experts, no matter the gender, we are joined by a common goal – providing value for clients through deep understanding of their legal needs, mitigate legal risk, but also discover opportunity. What should matter is the values the individuals possess and how they can provide clients with the best solutions. Neither ethnicity nor gender should interfere with individuals’ and firms’ performance and ability to advance in the legal profession, and in business overall.

Shifting the attention on what really counts – mentoring, giving feedback, and encouraging personal and professional development – will definitely bring a positive impact and help towards diversity.

How can law firms best encourage innovation?

For a while now, innovation has been the centre of attention in a variety of businesses, law firms included. Innovation may mean many things, like technological advancement, disruption in the way the business is managed, or valuable ideas are generated, etc.

In our view, many firms acting in the legal industry advocate innovation, but rarely practice it in reality. Apart from immersing in the technological solutions that are now more easily available to firms across the board, we apply innovation in the way we manage the firm, deal with clients, and encourage the team to think proactively for and meaningfully for the client.

Differentiation is critical to buyers of legal services – how do you stand apart in the market?

As stated, the critical difference in securing long term, high-quality clients is earning their trust and keeping it. We do that by delivering on our promises, by offering genuine engagement, and by never projecting an image of us or the firm that comes short of our true selves as human beings and as professionals. In short, being genuine and true to the client and the profession is what sets us apart. We understand that to be able to make the difference you need to help, not just advise, you need to uncover new options, not just stand by and tell the client which legal provisions apply or what flat regulations they should consider. Last but not least, doing business not for the immediate (financial mainly) rewards, but with a cooperative approach in mind which addresses the future, has placed us in a position where top-rate clients want to have and keep us on-board.

What do you think are the top three things most clients want and why?

During our professional career, we found very diverse clients look for a few key basic things in their advisors: proactivity with a sense of business; honest and agile advice; and a natural availability for genuine engagement with their needs.

We saw good clients leave their advisors for compromising on their professional and ethical values, or for gradually scaling down on the quality they, or their teams strive to offer as clients become long-term clients. That is certainly a pity, and a pitfall we do our best to avoid, as one unsatisfied client leads to another and bad reputation in this industry is a killer.

What is your one big prediction for the legal market?

As we are witnessing an internal political crisis. Adding the political tensions in the wider Euro zone, the Romanian market is exposed to a number of challenges, such as the stagnant level of direct foreign investments, delays in implementing much needed infrastructure projects or developing a clear public strategy promoting real and steady growth in the wider Romanian economy.

Against this backdrop, and concerning the Romanian legal market, we believe the effects of economic stagnation, coupled with the difficulty of some of the players in rethinking their business culture, will have a transformational effect, to the disadvantage of some firms that continue in their old ways and to the advantage of those who understand and adapt.