City firms rail against Polish legal fee cap

Top City law firms and the Law Society have flown in to Warsaw for crisis talks as they seek to head off legislation likely to cause the retreat of all international firms from Poland.

The Law Society is coordinating with the UK’s ambassador in Warsaw and firms including Allen & Overy (A&O), Clifford Chance, Linklaters and Lovells to resist government reforms that will cap legal fees at a maximum of just E70 (£47.49) per hour.

Clifford Chance Warsaw managing partner Nick Fletcher said: “This concerns all the commercial firms operating here. We’re reviewing our options, but it’s not clear how we could operate if this law is passed.”

The rate, which could be introduced by as early as the end of 2007, and which is calculated to represent 30 per cent of the Polish monthly minimum wage, has been met with equal horror by Poland’s commercial firms and the other international firms in Poland, including Gide Loyrette Nouel, Gleiss Lutz and White & Case.

Fletcher and Mickael Laurans, the Law Society’s international policy manager, met with the Polish vice-minister for justice Malgorzata Manowska last Thursday (12 July).

Also present was Thomas Wardynski, managing partner of top Polish firm Wardynski & Partners, who is leading the resistance, British Ambassador Charles Crawford and City of London Lord Mayor John Stuttard.

“We had some very positive feedback from the vice-minister, so I hope we can find a way through this,” Fletcher told The Lawyer prior to a debriefing with A&O, Linklaters and Lovells.

Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said: “Open access to legal services improves economic performance. The Polish government should learn this lesson rather than indulge in short-term protectionism.”

US firms are believed to be engaged in a similar campaign with the US embassy in Warsaw.