New Partner at Oppenheim: István Szatmáry on his Background and Plans

Interview

Dr. István Szatmáry, Partner

You have recently joined Oppenheim as a partner. Tells us about your story.

BBJ: You have recently joined Oppenheim as a partner. Tells us about your story.

István Szatmáry: Before joining Oppenheim, I worked as the head of the competition practice at a reputable international law firm in Budapest and later as group head of legal and compliance at a Hungarian media group and a management board member. Both the various competition- and antitrust-related tasks (that usually get relevant for all businesses, sooner or later) and the managerial aspects added a lot to my professional career and helped me realize the best fit for the next step. Joining Oppenheim with almost 25 years in the legal profession is a significant step forward, not only due to the position but because of the unique spirit of the firm, which I believe is something truly outstanding in the Hungarian market.

BBJ: What were the main drivers for this move?

ISz: I have known some of the partners and associates at the firm for a long time; we were in the same market for almost 20 years when I used to be an attorney. Once I decided to move into industry, I acted as Oppenheim’s primary contact at the group where I worked. So, I have seen the firm both as a competitor and a service provider. You might expect to notice crucial differences between the two types of relationships; however, surprisingly, I had the same impression in both instances. I asked myself: “Is this just a coincidence, or are there specific reasons behind it?” I concluded that it was not just by chance: the answer lay in the spirit and values of the firm. It provides high-quality, cutting-edge advice in a remarkably professional manner, with the flexibility that you can only have if partners can act independently. I found these features and the spirit very reassuring, and from the first of our discussions, I felt – on both sides – the inspiration to move our relationship to the next level. After all, that inspiration is what makes it attractive to join a new team.

BBJ: What plans do you have as the new head of the competition team?

ISz: The question may be more complex than it at first seems. I could list a couple of specific action items that should be achieved and are generally on every partner’s list when promoted to such a position. These are very important, indeed, and sufficient focus should be put on them. However, to be successful in the long run, you need to invest in the relationship; you need to give something, some external experience or new ideas. Having been an attorney with a reputable law firm and then having seen a business from the inside (on the managerial side), knowing what managers need to know and understand to make viable business decisions, I think I can give my combined experience to Oppenheim.

BBJ: What type of experience and what kind of new ideas?

ISz: My contribution to the firm should impact not only the advice we provide but also the organization in general. Regarding the advice to clients, I think my addition could be using my experience “on the other side,” i.e., my experience as a client receiving advice from various law firms and translating that advice for decision-makers who assess the impacts of their decisions commercially.

BBJ: And how can your managerial experience be built into the service?

ISz: I have seen how business decisions are prepared and taken and what standard processes are applied when a delicate issue is decided one way or the other. Even if a partnership or service line is a different type of business than a corporate management board, the operation should be at least partially standardized above a certain level of complexity. The real challenge is to pull the strings together without losing the existing spirit of an organization. I hope I can find a good balance here as well when heading the competition practice of Oppenheim and take our service quality up to a new level.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of June 3, 2022.

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