#25x25Interview | Sebastian Guțiu (Schoenherr si Asociatii SCA): Business law firms are at a turning point

Mihai-Alexandru Cristea 25/10/2021 | 11:42

The #25×25 Interview Series continues today with a special episode. “We are proud to have walked this 25-year long road alongside so many successful businesses. It is for this reason that we initiated this #25×25 interview series. We wanted to create a platform where these companies’ roles in shaping the local economy over the past quarter of a century can be recognised,” says Sebastian Guțiu, managing partner Schoenherr si Asociatii SCA, the respondent of today’s interview, and at the same time the partner of the #25×25 Interview Series, hosted by Business Review.

 

Business Review: Starting with a bit of historical background, what can you tell us about your company’s entry into Romania back in 1996 and about the legal industry as a whole back then?

Sebastian Guțiu, managing partner Schoenherr si Asociatii SCA: Schoenherr opened in Romania in 1996 when the new market economy had barely taken off. The growth potential was huge and investors were ready to tap into it. There wasn’t really a market for business law in Romania back then. New regulations governing  lawyers had only been adopted a year before, and only a handful of lawyers were starting to get a glimpse into the way international clients thought and what they expected.

In the beginning, we had one Schoenherr lawyer flying in from Vienna who then worked on site with two Romanian lawyers. Thus we were able to deliver our work at international standards from the very beginning. This was a huge advantage for us and in the eyes of multinationals, as general counsels were looking for the level of sophistication they were used to in other markets. Today we have more than 60 lawyers in Romania, plus a sizeable team of business professionals (admin, finance, HR, IT, marketing etc).

 

Business Review: How did your company navigate during all those years in Romania in terms of goals, achievements, challenges and opportunities?

Sebastian Guțiu: The activities of business lawyers are a reflection of how the economy works. We seized opportunities in times of economic growth as well as when there was a downturn. We started in Romania as a transactional firm, advising primarily on M&A, privatisations, real estate acquisition and development financing. We added new practice areas when we anticipated clients might need them. Schoenherr si Asociatii SCA is now, and has been for years, a full-service law firm. It is sizeable and flexible enough to allow us to cover every legal need our clients might have.

Our goal has always been to go further together with our clients, our team, our market. So we kept growing, locally and internationally. The Bucharest office was the first international office opened by Schoenherr, which had already been in Vienna for 46 years at that point. Other capital cities in Central and Eastern Europe and South-East Europe followed. Now Schoenherr is comprised of 15 offices and 4 country desks across the region.

 

Business Review: What is the proudest moment for your company in its 25-year history?

Sebastian Guțiu: Looking back at what we have achieved in the last 25 years, I am exceptionally proud. And this pride comes from the sum of all the big and small wins each of our team members has ever achieved at Schoenherr. From every deal closed by our clients, every contract signed, project finalised or successful litigation. Also, we are proud to have walked this 25-year long road alongside so many successful businesses. It is for this reason that we initiated this #25×25 interview series. We wanted to create a platform where these companies’ roles in shaping the local economy over the past quarter of a century can be recognised. And we would like to thank Business Review for hosting this editorial project.

 

Business Review: Moving into the present, how would you describe your company’s role in the current social and economic context?

Sebastian Guțiu: We see ourselves as having a unique blend of international and local features. Schoenherr owes a lot to its Western-European origins while it is also deeply rooted in the Romanian spirit and market. We can easily relate to both foreign investors’ and local entrepreneurs’ perspectives.

We have a responsibility not only to our business and team, but to the business community in general. That is why we constantly get involved in initiatives aimed at supporting its development. Our lawyers take active roles in legislative drafting. We support various business associations, events, projects and NGOs.

We also look ahead. With our students programmes, we aim to contribute to the development of the next generations of Romanian lawyers.

 

Business Review: No one has a crystal ball, so we won’t ask about the next 25 years. But looking into the future, how do you see the road to 2030 for both your company and the industry you represent?

Sebastian Guțiu: I believe that business law firms are at a turning point. Until recently, all resources were directed towards achieving growth. More clients, more lawyers, more money. With the change in clients’ expectations and the impact of legal tech, new models are needed. I think in five years’ time, productivity will be the name of the game in our sector. Schoenherr is already moving towards this goal. We are exploring ways and tools to become even more efficient, more profitable, more productive.

What I am confident will not change, is our focus on people. Investing in the development of our team has always been and will remain a priority for us.

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Mihai-Alexandru Cristea | 15/11/2021 | 14:10
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