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Czech firm PRK Partners is set to take on Gide Loyrette Nouel’s Prague team, which was let go by the French firm following its global strategic review.
François Veit, the partner in charge of Gide’s Prague office since 2000, will formally join full-service firm PRK in January along with his 10-strong team.
The group will move into a building next to PRK’s main office, with work being done to connect the two.
Veit joins PRK as an equity partner and, along with his team, will slot into the firm’s French desk. The hires will also boost PRK in other areas, particularly IT.
“We’re used to serving French clients,” said PRK managing partner Martin Kriz. “But here we are acquiring a first-class French law service, so clearly the team will continue to focus on French capital coming into Prague. And they’ve got good people for real estate and IT too.”
Veit in particular is known for his work in IT and will head PRK’s IP/IT practice.
Kriz hopes to maintain a relationship with Gide on Czech Republic-related work. Both firms are members of the Lex Mundi referral network.
“I can’t speak for them, but we think that Gide’s preference would be to work with its former office,” said Kriz. “We’ll give the team all the support it needs and do whatever it takes to ensure clients are happy with the service.”
Gide announced that it would close five offices across Eastern Europe and the Gulf as part of its strategic review in October this year (The Lawyer.com, 27 October). As well as Prague, the firm will withdraw from Abu Dhabi, Belgrade, Dubai and Riyadh.
“The Prague market’s competitive,” said Kriz. “We have strong local firms here and many Continental firms are represented on the ground too.
“We also have Anglo-Saxon firms, which came into the market in the 1990s. My perception is that the market’s overlawyered, especially when you compare it with Bratislava. I can quite understand when firms say they want to close.”
A number of firms have reduced their footprints in Central and Eastern Europe in the past two years. Linklaters withdrew from Prague in 2008 and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer shut its Bratislava office the following year.
It is a trend that creates opportunities for local firms. Indeed, it is believed that PRK now acts for Freshfields’ former clients in Slovakia.
“Big firms, especially the Anglo-Saxon ones, realised that the market here is too small to sustain all the magic circle firms, and some of them are pulling out,” said Kriz. “We think, if firms are pulling out, it’s good to have a look at the people and practices involved, and if we see a good team being abandoned we’re happy to talk to them. We’re not trying to poach people, but we are looking around.”
PRK has more than 100 fee-earners across offices in Prague, Bratislava and Budapest. Prague is its largest office, with more than 60 fee-earners.