fivehundred magazine > > Interview with… Jovana Drašković, Executive Director, SELA

Interview with… Jovana Drašković, Executive Director, SELA

How has the pandemic and the flexi-working revolution affected the network model?
Even before the pandemic, our network, given the different locations we are in, functioned with the help of tools that are now widely used, such as various web communication platforms (Teams, Zoom…). Our internal infrastructure and internal knowledge and know-how sharing are based on virtual reality. Communication is communication, being at the same location physically or virtually it does not matter.

How are networks adapting to fit into the post-covid world?
The same way as we as individual law firm adapt to any new environment, the network adapts. The whole world had to adapt to fit into the post-covid model. And if there is one good thing that has come out of covid, that would be accepting the remote working. The office as a physical category is no longer relevant. As for the business situation caused by covid and the client inquiries regarding this matter, we have been providing regional covid-related advising without any problems.

What are the key differentiators your network offers?
One of the key factors differentiating SELA from other international legal networks is the time and efforts the member firms invest in developing the network and managing their know-how. SELA has a dedicated management team and centralized marketing and business development team to push forward the network’s vision for growth and development. This allows each member to focus on the quality and development of their core business. This is the key, each member grows individually, while at the same time the members grow, SELA also grows.

Have client perceptions of networks shifted in recent years?
Legal networks have gained in popularity as a successful business development model for the law firms and as well as for the clients. For law firms because of the broader reach mainly, and for the clients because of facilitating their regional work handled by only one firm. Now this model is more popular than ever because the market is becoming more and more demanding and connected, the work is more and more extensive, and it is more challenging for clients to regionally align their legal matters.


What are some of the key issues currently facing clients and how are networks positioned to deal with them?
Networks are always better positioned to deal with any matter. In general, network impact is greater than what individual firms would achieve alone. The network routinely shares know-how and works together on a regular basis to ensure the regular and systematic exchange of professional information to facilitate and serve the needs of its clients. The knowledge is broader, different experiences with different clients are valuable tools for finding a creative solution.

Currently the European Climate Law containing the binding objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU to zero by 2050, together with the CSRD and CSDDD are in the focus of both international and local companies (more than 50,000 companies organized as PLC or LLC will be obliged to report on ESG under CSRD). Implementing business sustainability practices and aligning with the legal framework is challenging work and needs to be done via professional service. We see this as a hot topic in the coming period.

What do networks offer that global firms do not?
Local touch. Similar mentality. Easier understanding among member firms. And as for SELA, we became really close over the years working together, we became friends. There is a high fluctuation among partners within global law firms, but in our individual law firms – since the partners are closely connected, such fluctuation is rather uncommon. So, the stability of the relationship both within the member firms and among clients and the network is something that makes us strong.

What types of work are increasingly being won by networks over firms without such connections?
Regional mandates, assignments and transactional work, the types of work that include multiple jurisdictions.

How are networks changing the way that they promote themselves?
This is also something that is very similar to individual law firms. About 10 years ago, lawyers perceived themselves as a special category that is not subject to the rules of the market economy. That has changed. Now everyone understands that a law firm is a company operating in the legal services market for profit, that it has its product (which is a legal service) selling to the end consumers (other companies – B2B segment), that it has competition and that it has to fight for its market share. So, in order to stay on the market and respond to all its challenges, every law firm and every network must have strong marketing. Promotion is only the last P in marketing, the only visible part. There is a lot of work under the surface that people without marketing education do not understand.

What types of firms should be considering joining a network?
Those who recognize the need for broader coverage and understand the importance of it. And those who are more internationally oriented, with international clients.

What is the future for the network model – which networks are best positioned to thrive in future?
The one that understand the importance of investing the time and resources into development of the network. The future is always there for those who are ready to face it.

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