Allen & Overy spearheads move into Slovak Republic

Allen & Overy is set to become the first UK firm to open an office in the Slovak Republic.

Igor Palka, a corporate finance partner at Cernejova & Hrbek in Bratislava, and who has worked with Allen & Overy for many years, will join the firm next month to head its new office in Bratislava.

Graham Donnell, head partner at Allen & Overy's Prague office, will oversee the running of the Bratislavan office, which will have four Slovak lawyers. Palka will be an associate in the firm.

Donnell says: “This will add a lot to Allen & Overy's business because we will be the only UK law firm to have a Slovakian practice.”

He says the firm decided open the office because, since the Prague office was doing an increasing amount of work in the Slovak Republic, it felt it was time it had a permanent presence there. This was made easier by the Slovak Republic loosening its economic policies.

He says: “There has been a political change to the right that has affected business. Since the election last year, and even more the election this year, the Slovak Republic has adopted far more Western and liberal business practices.

“It is now on a fast track to development. That makes an attractive market for European investors.”

But he adds: “Good people are not readily available in the Slovak Republic. We are lucky that we have the right people and contacts to set up an office. Now we can scoop up opportunities when they arrive.”

He says the firm can do this because the Prague office has been successful: “We can use that as a foundation for launching ourselves in the Slovak Republic. Our competitors in Prague may not have had such a good run in the past few years.”

Donnell is confident that Palka is the best man to help the firm establish a presence in the Slovak Republic.

He says: “Igor Palka has been working for us on deals for the past four years, and he was seconded to us in 1995.

“He has a great reputation for doing landmark deals in the Slovak Republic, and is very much in tune with business there.”