Interview with: Vugar Mammadov, Managing Partner

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VLM and Partners

What do you see as the main points that differentiate VLM and Partners from your competitors?

VLM has built a reputation as a reliable partner, trusted by national and foreign clients in a fairly short time. Our well-established relationships with major law firms from various jurisdictions enable us to adopt the world’s top lawyers’ expertise and work as a cohesive team, providing the highest quality services in the national and international market.

We are one of the few law firms in Azerbaijan that are more internationally oriented. Additionally, some clients do business globally, where cross-border handling transactions are required. If necessary, we are eager to engage our partner firms from other jurisdictions to give the clients reliable legal solutions from a single hand. We, of course, cooperate with the client’s foreign advisors, too, if a client is already working with them.

I cannot help but notice that VLM’s biggest difference is its fantastic team. Our passion is new cases, big projects, and working with new clients. The main advantage of our team is that we are never afraid of challenges, always ready to innovate and look at each case in a different, creative way. We learn something every day, primarily from each other. In a sense, we are each other’s main motivation and support, making us a very close-knit team.

On the most visible wall of our office is written: “Think outside the box.” This motto is probably the most appropriate way to describe our team’s mindset. We have big goals and make small but decisive steps towards them.

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

The key areas that could increase in the next 12 months are inward investment, IT and technology law, retail, agribusiness, litigation/arbitration, joint ventures, oil and gas, construction, corporate and commercial law, taxes, and litigation.

Recent global developments lead us to expect investment law, project finance, alternative energy, consumer law, and intellectual property practices to grow over the next 12 months. Indeed, we have received requests for several unique opportunities in these areas.

Beyond traditional legal services, I believe that alternative dispute resolution, data protection, internal and fraud investigations, and AML reviews will be in high demand. Everything is changing at an astonishing speed these days. In contrast to previous decades, the knowledge and expertise of a year ago can now be considered outdated and more unconventional legal services will be necessary. Hence, it is essential to follow business developments regularly and be willing to offer more innovative legal services.

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

We have built strong collaborations on a national and international level. At the national level, we provide full legal and tax services. Talking about tax services, we have built a team with the leading tax professionals in our country. Specifically, for our due diligence projects, we have made solid cooperation with the best financial advisors in the country, so we deliver legal, tax, and financial due diligence projects as a bundle package.

One of our other differences in the national market is that in addition to the quality assurance of our services, we provide our clients with professional indemnity insurance for our professional services.

Further, since our team has grown considerably over the past few months, we have enlarged our workspace to create a comfortable environment for both our employees and clients.

Moreover, we have changed our policy of storing client data. So, we use secure cloud systems that allow our team members to work remotely and share information with clients in a simple, safe, and easy way. In addition to data security and simplicity matters, it helps us use less paper (which is very important nowadays, considering its shortage) and protect the environment.

Additionally, we have expanded the marketing strategy of our firm; thus, on our social networks, you can find the latest legal news, a variety of articles from our lawyers, projects, collaborations of our firm, etc.

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

With modern technology, our lives have definitely changed for the better. In some ways, two years ago, at the peak of the pandemic, technology was the light at the end of the tunnel for everyone, especially employees. Of course, as a consulting firm, we immediately started adapting to the new realities. These realities are now an integral part of our work, for which we are delighted. In addition to live meetings, we communicate online every day with our partners and clients worldwide through Zoom, Microsoft To Do, Skype, WhatsApp calls, etc. Thus, video meetings replace most office gatherings that allow our clients to save their time in traffic and us to work faster and more flexibly.

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

Two of our recent works came to my mind at once.

Firstly, we were assisting the client in obtaining a new stamp (what is vital for the company’s normal functioning), appointing a new director, and re-opening the closed bank accounts. Furthermore, we were helping the client detect the flaws in their day-to-day operations from a legal standpoint and purify their position before state officials. Thus, by submitting all the non-submitted tax declarations and calculating all the unfulfilled obligations (i.e., taxes, social payments) before the state, the wrongdoings shadowing the client’s successful operations and high profile were identified, and adequate steps were taken for their elimination. We played an active role in the investigation procedures for the criminal case against the former director of the client, participated in the interrogation sessions of employees, and sustained the necessary contact with the General Prosecutor’s Office.

Thus, the client’s interests were protected before all state institutions, including courts, ministries, banks, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Secondly, we are currently actively working on a state-level project, which I am sure will be very worthwhile. We participate in implementing the project mentioned above and contribute to strengthening the financial sustainability of vocational schools. In the frames of the above services, we fully manage the project, assist the client in developing the legal framework and drafting standard partnership agreements, which enhance the functionality of state vocational schools across the country.

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

I once read: “Stability is an illusion. It means that there is no stability at all. In any process, there is always either development or degradation”. Partly, I agree with that. I believe that stability should be only in the quality of the work. In the rest, there should certainly be changeability and development.

VLM is growing every day, and, as I said a year ago, I am more than sure that we will be among the leading professional firms in the legal market in three years. The way to achieve this is through continuous improvement in all directions, offering innovative services and solutions, working with the best employees, networking, and cooperating with international law firms, what we are successfully doing.