Poland rule change eases access for foreign firms

International law firms will find it easier to open offices in Poland following an amendment to the country's foreign investment law.

The change means foreign lawyers no longer require permits to establish offices in the country but it is too early to tell whether the more relaxed rules will lead to a flood of new international offices.

Managing partner of Allen & Overy's Warsaw office Stephen Denyer said the amendment overcame the “chicken or the egg” problem which established offices had endured.

“You needed a number of Polish lawyers to start a practice here, but you needed a permit to establish a practice,” he said.

The old rules meant that before a firm could get a permit, it had to prove 35 per cent of the office staff were Polish.

“The foreign investment law in Poland no longer requires foreign lawyers to get a permit,” said Denyer.

He said the change was unlikely to see foreign firms changing their proportions of local and foreign lawyers.

“I think all of the foreign firms established here under the old regime will probably keep their structure as it is.”

Denyer played down the likelihood of other foreign firms establishing in the country. “Most foreign firms who would come to Poland are already established here,” he commented.

He added that foreign firms may be put off by another piece of draft legislation which was before a committee of both houses of parliament.

“There is the possibility of a new law on legal services in Poland, which could restrict the actions of foreign lawyers,” Denyer said. “It has been discussed for about three years and the discussions don't show much sign of coming to any rapid conclusion.”