Interview with: Immanuel Gerstner, Senior Partner

Saxinger, Chalupsky & Partners (SCWP Schindhelm) | View firm profile

Senior Partner Immanuel Gerstner about the importance of technological progress in the legal field and what differentiates SCWP Schindhelm from other Austrian law firms

What do you see as the main points that differentiate SCWP Schindhelm (Saxinger, Chalupsky and Partners) from your competitors?

Saxinger, Chalupsky & Partner Rechtsanwälte GmbH (SCWP Schindhelm) is one of Austria’s leading CEE-operating law firms. Our roots date back to 1946. Based on this long-standing tradition, our focus is to provide comprehensive legal advice in all relevant fields of domestic and international business law by making use of our wide-ranging and in-depth experience and understanding of sectors, industries and markets. Our clients include businesses, private investors, government agencies, private individuals and families.

We have an excellent, ambitious team of lawyers eager to win great clients and to benefit our clients’ businesses. We are not just experts at law. We differentiate ourselves from other Austrian law firms with our excellent level of client care by identifying a client’s needs, explaining and summarizing any legal problems and providing the respective tailored solutions to our clients. We can thus proudly guarantee our clients the best possible legal advice. Our people strive to assist clients with all the issues they face, and to think and go beyond traditional lawyering.

In independent ratings of renowned industry publications, SCWP Schindhelm regularly ranks among the top 10 corporate law firms in Austria and the CEE region in numerous fields of law. Legal Directories hold that the firm’s M & A practice is “second to none” in its original home market upper Austria. Upper Austria is the leading state in Austria in terms of industry, exports and technology. Around one quarter of industrial production and exports in Austria stem from this region. At the same time, as member of the SCWP Schindhelm Alliance, an alliance of European corporate law firms, focusing on Central and Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific active in 12 countries to date (see question 3. below), the firm’s practice is predestined to advise clients on all cross-border matters. Said legal directories have in particular also recognize that the growing Vienna practice has gained significant market exposure and reputation throughout the last years and is active for reputable national and international clients. The Vienna practice with its cross-border orientation hence has attracted a new-client segment, i.e. institutional foreign investors.

We are of the opinion that this combination of strong local roots on the one hand and cross-border focus on the other is unique and makes the firm’s practice special.

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

We believe that Corporate/M&A which has always been one of the core practices of our firm as well as banking and finance will continue to grow in light of a stronger economy and the growing importance of compliance standards.

Moreover, with reference to our observations over the last few years, we expect the real estate sector to grow steadily. Although there is a general post-Brexit slump in sentiment towards the UK, investors continue to see value in real estate across many parts of Europe.

Another sector that we expect to grow is intellectual property and data protection with reference to an environment of increasing competition, globalization and rapid data transfer.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

One of the major changes happened in 2009 after a significant expansion which enlarged our wide-ranging expertise across many industries. We acted as a founding member of the international Schindhelm Alliance. Since then SCWP Schindhelm is a member of the SCWP Schindhelm Services SE, alliance of European business law firms with offices in Central and Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific with more than 200 lawyers in 12 countries at 24 offices.

Our alliance sees itself as an international network and it goes without saying that the lawyers speak both German and English, as well as the respective local language.

Personal contact with our clients – here in Austria or abroad – has always been important to us and in this respect our clients benefit significantly from the alliance and our cooperation offices. Now we can support our clients in all topics and pool the competence of colleagues abroad quickly, professionally and unbureaucratically.

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

No business remains unaffected by technology. Social Media, rapid technology adoption and changing behaviors are driving massive changes to the channels through which we communicate. Technology has positively affected the way we interact with our clients. We are now able to easily and transparently communicate with our clients 24/7 from everywhere in the world, including telephone and video conferences, file sharing etc. providing the possibility to develop, maintain, and strengthen the relationship with our clients. As such, we are constantly developing and improving our client relationship management (CRM) and we provide a substantial amount of information and articles on our website as well as newsletters which we send out regularly to our national and international clients.

Furthermore, we also believe that technological progress in the digital field can make an important contribution to increasing the efficiency of our services. At this point, we would like to refer to SimpLex Doks: SCWP Schindhelm recently won the award “Best Legal Tech Innovation 2018” for SimpLEX Doks at the first edition of “Promoting the Best Award”. SimpLEX Doks increases the efficiency of all commercial law firms and legal departments by highly automating applications to the commercial register (Firmenbuch).

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

We want our clients to be successful and to achieve their goals. For us, excellent services are creative, pragmatic and commercially expedient results that are tailored to our clients’ requirements and that help them to move forward. Our experts undergo continuous further training and develop new ideas and approaches for solving a problem. We thus keep an eye on all entrepreneurial hurdles and stumbling blocks for our clients.

With regards, particularly to cross-border transactions, which involve several jurisdictions, the international character of the SCWP Schindhelm alliance offers a special added value for the client: a one-stop-shop for legal advice. However, outstanding specialist legal expertise is not enough for us. As a lawyer, it is always very gratifying if a client grows up from a small “start-up” to a publicly listed corporation and we can take part in the process as advisers. Over the years, the outcome is reciprocal trust as well as real friendships.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three year’s time?

Our aim is to evolve, together with our clients and their businesses and to remain one of the most respected full service law firms in Austria. In order to achieve this goal, we t continue assisting our clients in a world that´s becoming more complex every year.

Moreover, we are planning to substantially invest in strategic acquisitions and team hires, and will build capabilities through emphasizing collaboration and talent development. This orientation is emphasised, for example, by the recent hiring of our new partner Matthias Steyrer, who expands the expertise in the field of Banking & Finance at the Vienna office.