Interview with: Bartosz Bagieński, Partner / Legal Advisor
Bartosz Bagieński, Partner in M&A Team, talks about virtual law firms, the value of face to face meetings in post-covid time and speculates on how the influx of Ukrainian citizens may affect the Polish economy in the future.
Poland, just like most European countries, is now in a post-covid phase. How do you think the covid developments at work have changed the way the law firm operates now. What do you think will stay with us for good?
This was obvious that in its most difficult phase Covid – 19 made law firms opt for remote work at a mass scale. In our case, the entire team worked from home and only one partner and a person from the administrative staff were on duty. Now, in the post-covid phase, we have come back to the office, but there is no doubt that the experience we have gained during the pandemics has made us more open to remote means of communication and work. This is a trend that will grow and it will definitely be a challenge to work out a healthy balance between the remote and office work.
As regards the legal work per se, the pandemics so to say speeded up the informatization of the court procedure in Poland. It is a kind of a paradox that the virtual court sessions, that the courts were unable to introduce for years, have turned to a permanent element of our work practically overnight and I believe this trend will continue to grow. So is the widely defined informatization related to communication and circulation of documents as well as electronic signatures, that will stay with us for good.
What is still an open issue, which has not yet been discussed in a greater detail, is the use of artificial intelligence in law firms, which will be an opportunity in the nearest years but which will also raise a number of concerns.
There are more and more virtual companies. Can you imagine your firm working without any office, representing people from other virtual companies? Does the human aspect have any importance for you?
In our profession and in our area of expertise (dispute resolution (in particular white collar crime) / transactions), personal contact and relations still play a material role. Naturally, the number of online meetings has grown dramatically. And while you might feel overloaded with virtual agenda, the face to face conversations are still very important and I can hardly think these could disappear.
It might be perceived as a paradox again but in transactions, the drop in the number of personal meetings which were replaced with status calls and other virtual meetings, has made the face to face conversations even more important and this is how the key decisions are made.
The entire world looks at Polish people helping the Ukrainians with admiration. Did DMS get involved in any such initiatives?
Oh yes, both at an organizational and personal level. As a law firm, together with three other law firms we opened up a Ukrainian Legal Helpdesk where we offered free of charge services for Ukrainian refugees. At an individual level our colleagues got involved in tens of initiatives, such as collecting food and clothing, cooking of meals, collecting medical supplies for soldiers or hosting Ukrainian families at homes. I am extremely proud of my colleagues since they have managed to prove that though lawyers are often considered to be heartless, their hearts are full of empathy. I also hosted two refugee families, which was a valuable experience for me and my family and kind of an exam from humanity. Surely we and our children will remember this lesson in the future.
How do you think the influx of Ukrainians affects the Polish economy and market place? Does it translate to legal work anyway?
There is no doubt that thanks to the influx of Ukrainian citizens to Poland the Polish economy can develop faster, while the labor market is more competitive. So far, the legal work concerned mainly the legalization of stay and taxation and social issues. In the years to come this will certainly generate more and more work for the transaction departments as well. We also believe that Polish entrepreneurs will play an important role in the reconstruction of Ukraine, once the war ends.
Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?
Certainly, it will be renewable energy, infrastructure and environment. This is related to the ongoing energy transformation. The transactions and dispute resolution practices should stay more or less at the same level, though external factors, in particular the war in Ukraine, might have certain impact on them as well. We must not forget about ESG too since it will be a business opportunity for most law firms in the years or months to come.