Squire Sanders & Dempsey is moving to rebuild its Slovakia office after the departure of three partners in the first two months of 2011.
Squire Sanders, which combined with Hammonds last year, has hired Tatiana Prokopová as a European partner specialising in real estate for the Bratislava office.
Corporate partners Adrian Barger and Roman Prekop left the US firm in January to establish their own niche practice, Barger Prekop Attorneys.
The duo were followed in February by Peter Šuba, who left for local Czech-Slovak firm Havel Holásek & Partners. Šuba is the first partner in Havel Holásek’s Bratislava office, which was previously run by the firm’s managing partner Jaroslav Havel.
Prokopová spent the previous five years in-house as chief legal officer for property developer SL Group Slovakia. Before that she was an associate at Squire Sanders. She joins Bratislava managing partner Julian Juhasz in a team of nine lawyers at Squire Sanders in Slovakia.
Barger said he and Prekop had decided their practices would be better suited to a local firm rather than an international one.
“We just realised that we were at a point in our careers where it didn’t make much sense to stay in a big international law firm in a market like Bratislava,” Barger told The Lawyer. “We felt that the way the firm was heading wasn’t the way we wanted it to go.”
He said Barger Prekop was able to be more flexible with fees, which suited local clients better. “Being with a global firm you have certain internal limits and you can’t go further,” Barger noted.
He said that he and Prekop, who have a team of seven associates who “mostly” joined from Squire Sanders, were doing a significant amount of regulation-related energy work, EU regulatory, corporate and commercial, and corporate financing work.
Šuba said that differing views on strategy contributed to his departure from Squire Sanders. He added that he considered joining Barger and Prekop, but liked the opportunities available in a larger local firm.
“The Slovak market, even though it’s small, is dynamic and has its own challenges,” he said. “The economic crisis has changed clients’ use of services. Value for money has become more important in this market.”
Šuba added that the merger between Squire Sanders and UK firm Hammonds did not affect his decision to leave the firm.
He and Havel said they planned to grow the Slovak office through cross-selling it with Havel Holásek’s existing Czech client base.
A spokesperson for Squire Sanders said: “We’re in the process of investing in our Bratislava office in anticipation of an upturn in demand for privatisation services – an area of traditional strength within the office. This year we’ve recruited a new real estate partner and five associates to ensure we’re well-positioned to take advantage as the market takes off.
“Bratislava is also integral to the cross-border services we offer in Central and Eastern Europe, and we foresee more opportunities through our increased European presence following the launch of our combination in January.”