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Legal life in... Poland

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Grzegorz Wozniak, founding and managing partner of Woźniak Legal shares his views on legal life in Poland.

Grzegorz Wozniak, founding and managing partner of Woźniak Legal shares his views on legal life in Poland and business opportunities to pursue there.

Tell us about your firm.

Woźniak Legal is a top-tier business law firm based in Warsaw. We advise a diverse range of Polish and non-Polish businesses on their investment in Poland and abroad, including commercial, corporate, M&A and antitrust issues. We also advise private clients on restitution claims, on succession, family governance and asset-holding structures for multi-jurisdictional assets. Recently we represented the heir of a factory owner in pursuing compensation from a Polish municipality regarding the decision to nationalise property after the Second World War.

Have you ever worked as a lawyer abroad?

I spent 14 years in Allen & Overy, mainly in the Warsaw office but I also spent some time working in the London office. After that I started my own law firm providing London standards of legal services adjusted to Polish reality.

What are the main opportunities for law firms in Poland?

Polish economy is still on the rise. Because of that, there are plenty of opportunities for international co-operation between law firms. There are still new foreign investments coming (both big and small), the real estate market is busy and start-ups hatch around almost every corner. Also the private client market, in particular for foreign high net worth clients, gains momentum. For these reasons lawyers with international experience are usually indispensable.

What are the main challenges for law firms in Poland?

It depends who are we talking about. There are many big law firms on the Polish market (mainly from the UK and the US), some big Polish law firms and plenty of small to medium -sized law firms (between 15 and 30 fee-earners) like us.

I think that the biggest mistake big law firms make is gratification. They think that the world is going to continue the way that it always continued. They are not preparing themselves for change.

On the other hand, smaller local firms often are not aware of the seismic shift that is coming and they also do nothing.

We are different. Because of our close cooperation with the London law firms and because of our involvement into an international network of ex-Allen&Overy law firms (we have a network of 10 law firms in Europe) we are fully aware of the current trends and we are preparing ourselves for change. We are a law firm of the new generation.

In the future, I see a world (whether it is Warsaw or London does not matter) where the best law firms will be delivering their legal advice much more effectively using technology. It is about the way you deliver services. We want to be the best!

Do clients prefer smaller local firms or larger international networks?

Big law firms will always be needed because there are many clients who require global advice.

But the legal industry is a huge market and there is room for many different models. It is important that clients can choose.

Smaller local firms are very important and they will probably continue to thrive as long as they can remain pre-eminent in their niches. And I do not think that smaller firms are second-rate or second-class in comparison with the big law firms. They are simply smaller because typically they operate only in one jurisdiction. Look at Slaughter and May in London. They are not global but, without a shadow of a doubt, they are a first –class law firm. The same thinking can be applied to Warsaw.

And smaller local firms (like us) can be a part of an international network. We are a part of an international network of ex-Allen&Overy offices including major jurisdictions in the EU and this fact gives us an extra edge.

What advice would you give to companies new to the country or to UK law firms willing to operate in Poland?

It is crucial to know someone oriented in local reality, not only in legal terms. Even expert knowledge of law may prove insufficient if not applied with experience, reason and care. As many Poles live in the UK and work also in law firms there, they might intermediate easily between their firms and proven Polish partners.

Besides, law firm directories can be a useful tool. Typically, the Legal 500 and Chambers&Partners give some good suggestions. Both are very reputable. They say that no-one can buy its way into their rankings and I truly believe this is true.

For instance this year we are ranked by the Legal 500 as No 1 law firm in the private client category for Poland. We have been flooded with phone calls and enquiries regarding these matters. It is really amazing!

Finally, what are your recommendations for visitors to Warsaw?

In Warsaw, everyone will find something interesting. The Old Town and the Royal Route are charming, in particular in the winter as they will sparkle with exceptional light decorations, although it might be cold that time. Besides museums, galleries and theatres, great restaurants, pubs and clubs provide a wide variety of venues to spend the evening (or even the whole night) in this busy city.

These views are the views of the author and not those of the Law Society.

 

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