Interview with: Silviu Stratulat, Partner
Stratulat Albulescu Attorneys at Law | View firm profile
What do you see as the main points that differentiate Stratulat Albulescu Attorneys at Law from your competitors?
We have grown from just a solo private practice to one of the top ten law firms in Romania in less than 8 years mainly due to trying to take a different approach to some of the other players in the market.
Many firms advertise themselves as innovative, more efficient, more commercial or more attentive to the client. In reality, what we also thought had to change was the way matters were dealt within all aspects of practice. More specifically, among other actions, we have tried to make reports, opinions and notes more user-friendly, have challenged our lawyers to continually make imaginative use of “standard” precedents, explained fully to clients all mark-ups to documents, worked very hard to constantly produce good solutions to problems and have taken the time to understand the specifics of each of our client’s businesses.
At the same time, we have assumed the role of the ‘hungry wolf’: always on the lookout for business, always willing to take that extra step to show clients how we can add value. Since an early stage of our development, we have been travelling to the major business centers in Europe, the US and the Middle East to help develop our network of contacts including with overseas law firms and clients to increase awareness of our firm. We have taken part in as many major gatherings in the areas and sectors we have decided to focus on as time has allowed and, at the same time, we have put together our own events in certain countries including for example at the International Bar Association Annual Meetings in Vienna, Cannes and Rome.
Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?
From our thriving and globally important IT sector to the boom in real estate, the opportunities are many for those seeking the best returns. Conditions in Romania continue on a constantly improving track. The country is forecasting continued growth, which means that in many sectors, Romania will remain an attractive investment location because of its growing domestic market, its important role in the CEE area and as an EU member as well as its ability to provide goods and services competitive in the global economy.
The technology and IT sector, where highly skilled and creative Romanian specialists have proved to be an attractive asset for investors, with an increased cost-effectiveness compared to other European countries is expected to become a target market for research and development centres focused on high-end solutions and technologies.
Other areas include employment, which is growing at a robust pace and unemployment continues to fall. Private consumption is still the engine of the recovery. The authorities have also taken steps to improve confidence in the banking sector thus helping to enable the provision of the finance to support the ambitions of companies.
The Romanian automotive sector is very dynamic and attractive for foreign investors, representing 20% of total Romanian exports. Important international manufacturers have opened factories in Romania, with car manufacturing in the lead, alongside the construction of components and equipment. The aeronautic industry and the textile and apparel industries are also seeing significant investment.
Steady and sustained growth can be seen with the regular completion of various projects and opportunities ranging across the different sub-markets.
In addition to a growing demand for small scale residential housing in secondary areas, the office market has also seen a record take-up volume and a considerable increase is expected in Bucharest, with new retail schemes emerging. In addition, given the expanding tourism industry, the hotel market keeps on providing dynamic business opportunities.
We have expertise in the law and practice in all these areas and in meeting professional and business contacts around the world do all we can to promote our country and the opportunities it provides for investment and transactional activity.
These are exciting times for the legal environment in Romania that has reached maturity with laws and regulations becoming more attuned now to the EU context and the demands of the economy. Managing a business has been notably simplified, and the information is largely available online, greatly facilitating all procedures connected to business formation and development.
What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?
This year we decide to focus on a geographical growth, and we are about to open our second office in Cluj, the second most important business center in Romania, after Bucharest. Our larger coverage means that we will be able to service our clients on all their matters in the region of Transylvania faster and in a much more cost-efficient way.
We have also put together a start-up legal support package that offers such companies a full set of legal services at a significantly discounted rate. This, on the one hand, will help young entrepreneurs acquaint themselves with the compulsory legal requirements in the fields relevant to their business and, on the other hand, offer them a high-quality service at a cost affordable to a start-up’s limited budget.
We will also continue to put out our yearly Business Opportunities brochure which intends to help investors understand more about the growth areas in certain key sectors of our economy.
Further we are doing all we can to continue to hire laterally to enhance our core capabilities and add new areas of expertise.
Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?
We have been always focused in keeping up with the latest technological developments allowing us the provide state of the art assistance to our clients when and where is needed.
We are eagerly looking forward (with an open mind) to what the near future holds in terms of advances in automation of project management and AI based solutions that will take over many of present time’s mundane work in a typical lawyer’s day in the office. This will allow us to spend more time focusing on the creative side of legal work and will definitely have an impact on law firms’ recruiting strategies, that will emphasize more and more on high added-value niches and deeper specialization of the lawyers.
During the recent years, we have witnessed a surge in the number publicly available legal resources – from online legal libraries to legal themed online discussion groups and social media, everything is making it a lot easier for the average business owner to get information on legal matters. We do not expect this to become an alternative to specialized legal services anytime soon, but it is in fact easy to notice, as of now, that clients have already become more legal savvy and more focused in their demands. Law firms that are adapting and that are capable of serving this increasing category of clients will have the most to gain. Our firm’s current marketing efforts as well as internal guidelines are aptly equiped for dealing with this market evolution.
The existing technology is significantly helping us in being more time and cost efficient when it comes to the client deliverables. Due to the fact that at the moment we have almost all the information we need stored electronically and search friendly it notably reduces the time for research, the time within which the deliverable or assistance is provided, and allows the lawyer to be more focused on the more sensitive aspects of the legal problem and, in the end, it translates in considerably lower costs for the client. However, these technology advantages should not be at the cost of, and should be alongside strong and regular personal contact to understand the client’s strategy and concerns.
We are in the process of further updating our IT platform based on a very simple, highly effective principle of know-all/share all, that will seamlessly integrate the client’s team with our team and will significantly reduce secretarial tasks and unnecessary doubling-up on work.
Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?
In addition to finding various business solutions to everyday problems that our clients face, we try to support business by giving them ideas on how to expand their business and suggest investment opportunities, without assuming the role of a broker.
We acquire extensive knowledge in a particular sector which allows us to help to understand if our client should consider doing an add-on acquisition or enter a sub -set area in the relevant market because it is the right time to do it.
At the same time, our legal advice is directed at helping the client internally too and providing commercially aware advice and not causing hindrance or additional stress to management.
Also, our interactions with professionals and contacts around the world help us to come up with innovative suggestions tried in other countries that can add value to transactions.
Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?
We believe clients want to work with advisers who match in ambition their strategic aims and are working to find creative and cost-effective solutions for them and have the core strengths and experience to provide them.
We have already reached a size that allows us to deliver the full range of services in all business areas of law and we have done this organically, by recruiting talent and investing time and money in their further education and training including secondments overseas and also by the strategic hire of laterals with very high reputations in their areas of practice.
In three years’ time, we see our firm climbing up to the very top of the largest and most renowned firms in Romania, while still remaining independent.
Also, we continue to aim for our mid-level lawyers to see a swift and clear path to partnership and we expect in three years to continue to have a firm with a good demographic mix as talent, ability and efficiency have no age limits.