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How to Run an Award-winning Law Firm

We asked the managing partners of three of Budapest’s award-winning law firms the secret of their success.

Our panel was comprised of: Csilla Andrékó of Andrékó Kinstellar, part of The Lawyer’s Central European Law Firm of the Year; Zoltán Faludi of Faludi Wolf Theiss, part of Chambers’ Central & Eastern Europe Law Firm of the Year; and István Réczicza of Réczicza Dentons, Hungarian national winner of the IFLR Europe Awards 2017, and part of Chambers’ European Law Firm of the Year. 

See also opposite for a full-page interview with András Posztl, managing partner of Horváth & Partners DLA Piper, winner of Chambers’ International Law Firm of the Year in Hungary award.

What does it take to run an award-winning law firm in Hungary?

Csilla Andrékó: Kinstellar is an independent regional international law firm which is run and operated in the same style as international law firms and has a strong corporate culture based on teamwork, commitment to quality and commercial focus. I have spent my entire professional career in an international firm environment and my style of running the office is clearly shaped by the time I was a partner of a U.K. Magic Circle law firm. Running a law firm is a very complex job and requires many things done simultaneously, including running the business, running the practice, managing your colleagues, sometimes being their psychologist/mother/friend, and having a clear vision for the future. The last one is probably the most difficult, as it is purely second-guessing in a very challenging and rapidly changing environment in Hungary and also globally. Clients nowadays are much more sophisticated than 10-15 years ago, require their lawyers to fully understand their business, help them face market challenges and be much more flexible on, for example, pricing their legal services. We have now moved from organizing ourselves purely in practice areas to a sector approach, focusing on eight sectors where our core clients operate. So, understanding the fundamental drivers of the markets, and the business of our clients, uncovering their untold and unmet needs, and concisely demonstrating the value of what we can offer, also keeping an eye on our competitors and nurturing our talents are critical to being able to make wise management decisions.

Zoltán Faludi: A highly dedicated team of smart and creative people working at the forefront of legal innovation, being involved in landmark cases, aspiring to be the “newsmakers”: – this is how I would sum up the essence of our success. For a managing partner, it is highly rewarding to assist and be involved in the career development of the young generation of great lawyers and to work in a friendly and supportive team, to see the success of others and to take pride in the collective power and success of the team. As we are approaching the tenth birthday of our firm, it gives me great pleasure to look back on the past years and see what we have achieved.

István Réczicza: To run a firm like ours, which won the IFLR National Law Firm of the Year Award two years running and the 2017 Chambers European Law Firm of the Year award, it is essential to find and to be able to keep the best legal professionals in the country and the region. The biggest challenge for an international law firm has always been to find the right balance between motivating high-quality lawyers to integrate into a large law firm and allowing them to remain professionally independent and competitive.

What are the greatest challenges?

Csilla Andrékó: In Hungary, successful law firms must adapt to – and embrace – a rapidly changing business environment. Some changes are so dramatic that everybody notices them, but others may creep up on a sector or industry over the years. As new business opportunities continuously emerge, law firms need to evolve in order to stay competitive. New kinds of competence and skills need to be developed if we want to stand out from the “crowd” and keep up with our clients. Law firms are also experiencing pressure on their fee rates and in Hungary competition is particularly severe. We need to accept that structural changes are going on in the market, and we have to be able to respond to these challenges while running a profitable business. We need to develop our legal and management skills and come up with smart solutions for providing legal services, tailored to the special needs of the clients. Digitalization is a major challenge for the legal profession, although I think that because of the relatively small size and volume of Hungarian deals, financially it won’t be feasibly for a while to replace lawyers’ work with computer programs. Finally, in my opinion, one of the key challenges for the future is to attract and maintain the best lawyers because hard work and a long-term career prospect is not so attractive for the younger generation anymore.

Zoltán Faludi: Wolf Theiss concentrates its energies on a unique, constantly evolving part of the world: the complex fast developing markets of the CEE and SEE region. This regional coverage means a flourishing diversity within the firm and also distinguishes us from our competitors – and at the same time provides a great challenge to constantly deliver at a regional level. In this highly competitive business, it is difficult to compete with the prices of local law firms, but fortunately many of our clients recognize the value of seamless service across the entire region. The award we have received also puts pressure on us to maintain the same level of service day by day to be worthy of it – a pleasant but demanding task – and to strive to receive it again.

István Réczicza: Apart from attracting and maintaining a legal team comprised of the best professionals, it is crucial to recognize which areas of our legal practice merit long-term investment and which areas are likely to be profitable only in the short-term. Our key focus areas have long been regulated industries, energy, infrastructure and TMT, as well as our M&A, private equity, real estate and banking practice.