Interview with: Milena Gaidarska, Partner

Penkov, Markov & Partners | View firm profile

Partner Milena Gaidarska comments on the challenges of Bulgaria’s legal market in the year ahead

What do you see as the main points that differentiate [law firm name] from your competitors?

Penkov, Markov and partners unite the knowledge, experience and vision of three generations of lawyers – the founders of the company, who are direct participants in building the modern legal system of Bulgaria after 1989, but at the same time who have preserved the knowledge and understanding of legal institutes from the old socialist legislation; the second generation of lawyers who grew up professionally during the transition period and the youngest generation of lawyers building up as professionals in a globally digitalized society.

This symbiosis between the experience of the elder generation, including in the understanding of legal institutions that have operated in the past, but in many cases have to do with the proper resolution of today’s cases, with the excellent training of younger staff in the current legal regulations in real estate and construction, is undoubtedly a prerequisite for providing high quality legal service in complicated legal cases.

Especially in the field of real estate and project development the fruitful collaboration between the legal, technical and sales teams working on a particular project is a condition for its success. Therefore, we work actively with architects, engineers and leasing managers thus accumulating knowledge and understanding of notions relevant for other professions; we strive at going beyond the purely legal framework of the problems and to offer workable legal solutions that are pragmatic and entirely business-oriented.

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

Taking into consideration the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and the fact that this crisis has not passed at all, we may reasonably assume growing of our labour law practice in the next 12 months in connection to the introduction by the employers of new organisation of the work, including work from home, regulating the possibilities for the employer to impose measures to limit the spread of the infection, which the Bulgarian legislation does not regulate so far.

The strong litigation team we have built and the success that this team has already achieved for example in series of lawsuits against the Bulgarian state instigated by owners of assets for the production of electricity from renewable sources make us believe that in the next 12 months we can expect a growth of our litigation practice.

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

In connection with the COVID-19 crisis, we have formed teams to monitor all legislative initiatives and acts of the administration, aimed either at introducing restrictive measures to stop the spread of the infection, or at introducing measures to overcome the social and economic crisis. Our clients can count on us to both bring their operations in compliance with the restrictive measures that are constantly and dynamically changing in line with the development of the pandemic situation, and assist in the preparation of documentation for applying for the use of financial tools included within the government program dedicated to the overcoming the consequences of the crisis.

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

Yes, undoubtedly.

The digitalisation of the main public registers in Bulgaria has greatly facilitated the swift registration of new companies, immediate access to legal information related to the corporate history of legal entities, as well as the collection and analysis of information on the real estate and urban status of real estate. All this opened the possibility to offer standardized legal services within predictable cost-saving budgets and in significantly shorter terms.
In the context of the COVID-19 situation the meetings in person were replaced by zoom and other video conferences, thus ensuring the personal element in the communication, but avoiding the health risk, and saving time and expenses.

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

A key client of ours, one of the major construction companies operating on the Bulgarian market, has entered into a preliminary agreement for sale and purchase of real estate property, whereby an escrow mechanism has been involved. Significant amount representing part of the purchase price has been deposited to an escrow account and blocked there until closing of the transaction. Due to COVID-19 restrictive measures it became impossible to close the deal in time. In this complex and sensitive situation we managed to convince the seller to accept the release of part of the deposited escrow account to be used by our client for its current projects, and to amend the preliminary agreement by introducing more flexible terms for closing the deal in line with the everyday changing regulations related to COVID-19, and the practical complications arising thereof.

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

We have always strived to build a loyal clientele. We have a lot of clients to which we provide complex legal service for more than 20-25 years. We know their history, we understand the challenges their business faces and together we build the strategy for further development, which of course has a direct impact on the strategic planning of our business as well. Indeed, our loyal clients expect from us a much more extensive care, going far beyond the performance of specific legal assignments, and including information on an ongoing basis about all legislative changes and initiatives that could be relevant to the business, initiating such changes through appropriate legal instruments, and strategic planning of the business based on both legal and economic arguments.

Within the next three years, I see our law firm as a stable organization of highly qualified, well-trained and experienced lawyers, unreservedly committed to the work and sharing our common values, with optimally functioning working groups in various legal fields. In addition to the stable development of the traditionally strong practices of the company, in which we are established as one of the market leaders, I expect a planned expansion of our practices in the field of labour and transport law.