Dominika Fiorini, Taylor Wessing
29 April 2010
7 August 2000
7 May 2012
12 March 2012
13 March 2011
2 March 2009
Taylor Wessing announced its new strategic alliance with BSJP, a dynamic and well-established law firm in Warsaw in May 2009. Being Polish, my immediate thought was that a secondment to “our new office” would be a fantastic opportunity.
I would be able to put my language skills to good use, and it would also give me the chance to learn more about Polish law and the civil legal system more generally. I also felt that the experience of working in a different legal and commercial environment would enable me to appreciate our clients’ needs from a different perspective.
Having left Warszawa (as it’s known in Poland) over ten years ago – when offices, banks and restaurants were located in grey, sombre communistic buildings, good restaurants were few and far between and a night out on the town was not for the faint-hearted – I was amazed to return to a modern, thriving, vibrant city, boasting shiny new skyscrapers, great shops and a nightlife to rival that of Paris or London.
One of those “shiny new buildings”, accommodating a restaurant, gym, bar, and various shops and offices, was the headquarters of BSJP. Although not yet fully merged with Taylor Wessing, the office was of a very similar standard and feel to ours in London, with a few additional perks including a coffee machine, which produced the best office cappuccino I have ever had.
The wide-ranging variety of tasks I was asked to carry out reflected BSJP’s diverse expertise and international client base. Whether it was preparation of advice for a foreign client in relation to their industrial design rights and passing off claims, or due diligence in relation to a potential corporate acquisition, virtually all of my work had to be conducted in two languages simultaneously. Despite being a native Polish speaker, this proved more difficult than I initially anticipated but at the same time was one of the aspects of my work in Warsaw, which I enjoyed most.
I was also impressed to discover that the expertise of the lawyers in Warsaw covered more than one legal area. During my stay, I shared an office with an extremely knowledgeable employment law specialist, who was at the same time a walking corporate, real estate and litigation encyclopaedia.
Poland, once wiped off the European map and formerly an impoverished Soviet satellite, is now the 39 million strong “tiger of Europe”. It is the only “green point” on the European economic map as a result of being the sole EU country to experience positive growth in the last year and is now one of foreign investors’ favoured targets. Already the biggest beneficiary of EU grants (estimated to total 67 billion Euros), the country continues to create an investor-friendly environment, as is exemplified by the Polish parliament’s approval of business-friendly tax changes in February this year.
Warsaw itself is a remarkable city. Brutalised by a bloody history, and almost entirely destroyed in World War II, it has risen like a phoenix from the ashes and now bridges East and West, sitting in virtually the exact physical centre of Europe. It buzzes with energy, but should all the bars, pubs, and some of the trendiest clubs in Europe prove too tiring, there is always the quieter side of the city to explore. Best known is the Old Town with its enchanting cobbled streets and squares. Quieter still are the city’s parks: Łazienki Królewskie is the largest and most beautiful, home to “The Palace on the Water”, ornate orangeries and an amphitheatre where performances are staged during the summer months. Across the river Vistula is Praga, with its pre-war bullet scarred houses. This south-eastern suburb of Warsaw was the setting for the Oscar winning The Pianist, set in the Jewish Ghetto, of which only Próżna Street remains. All across the city, one is either being reminded of the past or looking ahead to the future.
And Warsaw has a lot to look forward to: whether it be the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, the 2010 International Chopin Competition, or the Prodigy playing in Torwar next month, the city can certainly cater for all ages and tastes. Warsaw is definitely the place to be and one I intend to visit much more often.