Postcard from... Prague
18 December 2009 | Updated: 18 December 2009 11:14 am
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Bird & Bird actually has four offices throughout Central Europe and I live in the middle, about three or four hours from each of them by train. I usually spend two or three days in each office and prefer to take a night train or early morning train to arrive there first thing in the morning.
When I’m in a particular city during the week I prefer to get around by metro or walk as generally I avoid taxis as it separates me from the local people and I can’t stand being stuck in the backseat in a traffic jam. I also get to see a lot of beautiful old buildings and historic places en route.
I currently live in the country amidst the Beskydy Mountains on the Czech-Polish border and very near the Slovak border. I have a beautiful view of Lysa Hora, the top of the range.
I am mainly based in the Prague office, which is our hub for Central Europe. It is a beautiful space - the architects were recently featured in a magazine. For that reason, and because of the friendly and intimate atmosphere of the place, our terrace on the 7th floor overlooking Prague is also my favourite place to entertain - even in cold weather since I am a Canadian. I insist on the best coffee and croissants from the place dubbed the “snobby place” and our head of HR, who is also our yoga instructor, insists on all organic food and lots of water and tea. I am happy to eat her tofu burgers and herbal teas, which she even thrusts on the clients, so long as I get to wash it down with coffee and chocolate.
Everyone is local, so in the Prague office all Czechs, in Warsaw all Poles, in Budapest all Hungarian and in Bratislava all Slovaks. I am the one exotic and I guess that is more than enough for them.
I am happiest representing early stage technology companies in their commercialisation and sale, especially if it involves multiple countries in Central Europe. Having spent the past two years in Silicon Valley, I am also doing more in the field of CleanTech, which is really the next wave and BioTech. This is a bit of a niche for me, although telecoms generally and software commercial work is something covered by many other firms since Central Europe is sometimes deemed Silicon Valley East.
Having three kids and being on the road so much, if I am away from home and with one of the teams on a Thursday night I like to join them at their favourite watering hole, but prefer to avoid anything fancy. The more local the better. But when I am home it is catch-up time with my wife and kids. Seventeen years of successful marriage so far means I pay close attention to keeping our Saturday date nights with my wife and it usually involves a movie or music, as there is a lot of culture in Central Europe. My kids compensate for my complete lack of musical ability so I often attend their concerts or musical events.
I love being at the heart of such a dynamic culture and getting to know more about the unique aspects, right across Central Europe and further afield. I love that you can just be anywhere completely different in such a short time compared to North America and I like to give each of my kids a weekend alone with dad to a place in Europe of their choice to do as they want.
Stephen Kines, is head of Bird & Bird’s Central Europe practice, based in Prague.