DLA Piper demonstrates commitment to CEE with Prague expansion

DLA Piper’s Central & Eastern European managing partner Krzysztof Wiater has pledged his firm’s committment to the region in the wake of its Czech bolt-on.

DLA Piper announced this week that it was expanding its Prague office through a local bolt-on with two-partner Haškovcová & Co (1 September 2014).

The news comes at a time when economic growth has slowed or reversed across much of Eastern Europe – as well as in several eurozone countries, notably Germany. Difficult market conditions have forced several firms out of the region over the past few years, with the most recent departures being Hogan Lovells (13 May 2014) and Norton Rose Fulbright (23 April 2014) from Prague and Chadbourne & Parke from Kiev (6 August 2014).

But DLA’s says the firm is committed to the region and indeed committed to growing its presence there.

The firm currently has its own offices in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Slovak Republic. In Croatia it has an association with Glinka & Miskovic, and in Turkey one with Yuksel Karcin Kucuk.

Wiater identifies Poland as a key jurisdiction where the firm is actively looking for opportunities, but says the entire region is one where DLA can find plenty of room for growth.

“CEE still looks pretty attractive for us,” he says. “We’re focused on gaining lawyers with an extremely strong local network and very strong local skills, as well as an international reach.”

He says that unlike some of the firm’s competitors, DLA has a strong focus on mid-market transactions, where activity remains good. That work can benefit from adding local capabilities such as that of Haškovcová. The move involves name partner Thu Nga Haškovcová becoming Czech managing partner, while fellow partner Petr Šabatka will lead the firm’s local litigation group.

Wiater says he is particularly pleased that the office will be led by a woman.

Outside those countries where DLA has its own offices, the firm operates a network of best friends across the rest of the region, from the Baltics to the Balkans. Recently it reviewed its relationships with these firms, either confirming existing ties or creating new ones. In the Baltics, for example, independent firm Sorainen is now DLA’s first-choice partner, backed up by fellow pan-Baltic firms LAWIN and Varul.

As with so much in the law, DLA’s expansion in the CEE region is driven by what Wiater calls “clear signals” from clients.

“DLA is always reflecting what our clients need,” he says. “Most of our global clients are present in the region. I hope that in the next year we’ll be much more visible.”

For more on the region, see our recent special reports on Romania, Hungary, Serbia, and the Czech Republic and Slovakia.