CEE Attorneys is a rare project of an international law firm built on an initial idea from the Czech Republic.
Back in 2013 it was only small Czech law office called Tomicek Legal. It was established by three former PwC Legal lawyers who dreamt of their own legal practice with international aspects. “I started doing legal business from my living room. It is that type of story of the guy who moved from one room to the next room being his own assistant, boss, employee and other professionals you need in the very beginning. But from the very first moment I had my dream about a strong regional international law firm and my visions about a different approach to advocacy” says Zdenek Tomicek, one of the founders of CEE Attorneys.
International ambitions started to take form in 2015. Zdenek and Lukas Petr, the second partner of Tomicek Legal who built it together with Zdenek from the very first moment, travelled to Bratislava and approached a number of local Slovak law offices to cooperate with them on clients seeking support in both jurisdictions. They agreed with Fox Martens, a Bratislava based law firm, and established CEE Attorneys. Their challenges were to create one brand and to set up principles to make sure that legal services for their clients in both countries are provided under the same conditions and under the one-stop shop principle. “Those beginnings were really great. It was amazing to start building an international law firm and establish uniform principles. Of course, we made a lot of mistakes but considering where we are now, I would say that the good decisions prevail,” remembers Lukas. Since then, CEE Attorneys has expanded to a total number of thirteen CEE Attorneys offices with more than 160 lawyers and seven partners offices across Europe and Asia.
The expansion was one part of the success. However, quality and the service itself have top importance. The quality level is based on the principles of basic standards of each office of CEE Attorneys. The focus is on seniority of lawyers, language skills and other attributes. The hiring process itself is very much focused on lawyers with additional value. An ideal education and experience are not enough. Lawyers in CEE Attorneys must be also creative, and their business thinking should be possibly even stronger than their legal approach. Through this way, CEE Attorneys have been recognised by The Legal 500 EMEA as a provider of top-tier legal practice in several areas in the last few years.
The services themselves and their constant innovations is then probably one of the main reasons why CEE Attorneys is well-known in the region and appreciated by their clients. Zdenek, who takes a lead in CEE Attorneys in bringing innovative ideas and turning them into practice, says: “Robert Silverberg, an American novelist, once said that not all lawyers are annoying because some are dead. It is funny and sad in the same time. It made me think what we lawyers do constantly wrong that we are so unpopular for the public and particularly our clients. I was thinking about it by day and night and came the conclusion that if we can change it than we would be far in front of our competitors. I started putting together all the sins of lawyers, explained to our people why we have to do things differently and guaranteed our clients that once we breach our obligation to act differently there will be direct consequences. This change of our thinking continued to develop our unique approach to advocacy. It works nicely and we enjoy our work more than ever before.” Since 2018 CEE Attorneys takes providing top quality legal service as its norm. They believe that it is what clients expect when contacting lawyers. It could be compared to any other business or, even more accurately, service.
As such, CEE Attorneys aims to involve its clients as much as possible and believes that every law firm should be as transparent as possible. They speak their clients’ language because they want to defy the idiom “The minute you read something that you can’t understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.” They don’t want their clients to miss any deadlines, which is why they keep track of them. They want to let their clients know that they are not just another item in the ledger, that’s why CEE Attorneys doesn’t charge them a fortune for simple day-to-day matters. “We will always stand behind them and let them know that we care about their business and we will do everything to help them grow it. Not only do we help our clients to grow their businesses, we also try to connect them with new business opportunities,” adds Lukas.
Such proclamations are nice but it is actual performance which counts. That’s why CEE Attorneys came with the Minimum Quality Standards of service provided. This includes fast reaction time – if an e-mail is received by 5pm, they respond to it on the same day and confirm the assignment so that the client can be sure the task is being processed. Their clients must know how much time CEE Attorneys devotes to their tasks and always understand what are their lawyers doing, that is why clients are provided with an estimation of the time needed to prepare each contract and opinion – if CEE Attorneys does not manage to meet the deadline, it is communicated before the deadline with the agreement on the next steps with the client. “It sounds very easy but honestly how many law firms really does it? It is what is promised to their clients but once the lawyers are overwhelmed with work the service goes aside. Not in our case!” underline Zdenek.
The approaches of lawyers and businessmen sometimes do not fully match. This is due to the differences in the respective professions. That is why CEE Attorneys always structure its legal advice in a way that is understandable for everyone – the client first receives plain legal advice and only then the reasoning supporting that advice. As part of the evaluation and recommendation of the steps which should be taken by the client, they always indicate the extent of risk for the client (no risk/low risk/medium risk/high risk), so that the client can get the full picture of the potential impact of the solution recommended.
Last but not least they also employ innovations internally. They work with the idea that if you do what you like than you do it better. That’s why they have built their portfolio not only on business perspectives but also on the preferences of their people. How many law firms have departments focusing on gastronomy, gaming, fashion or travelling? CEE Attorneys does. The reason is simple. They have lawyers who loves to dine well, play computer games, enjoy fashion or travel around the world. “It’s a fresh and productive approach. By taking minor steps you can change destiny. There was no particular reason to add those practice areas to our standard focus like construction or energy. If our lawyers spend only ten percent on legal matters in their favourite fields, they are much more concentrated on the rest. For example, Zdenek is a football enthusiast and if he can draft a simple contract for a professional football player than he is more relaxed, focused and enthused about other legal areas not directly associated with his personal interests. I see it on daily bases and it leads to an amazing change of atmosphere in our team,” describes Martina Schutzova, Partner and the Head of Labour Desk in CEE Attorneys Prague Office.
CEE Attorneys trusts that providing sound business advice and exceptional service to their clients on top of basic legal advice is the way to go forward in the legal services market. They are breaking through the stereotype of the reserved lawyers who speak almost a foreign language and never go beyond what’s asked of them.