The number on the bar membership card of one of the founding partners of DETVAI LUDIK MALY UDVAROS (DLMU) reads 0001.

During the 25 years of the firm’s existence, its partners have contributed considerably to the advancement of the legal profession in Slovakia and raised many accomplished lawyers. We sat down with Dr. Zoltan Ludik, one of the founding partners of DETVAI LUDIK MALY UDVAROS (DLMU), and Mgr. Jakub Maly, who represents the new generation of lawyers at the firm.

How different is practicing law today compared to 25 years ago?

Zoltán Ludik (ZL): The early 90s was a period of substantial uncertainty. The laws were changing rapidly. This was also a period when the foundations of modern advocacy were being laid down; some of our partners have participated in drafting of the Slovak Act on Advocacy or helped establish the Slovak Bar Association. Slovakia joining the EU was an important milestone, which led to the adoption of crucial European doctrines and principles and the establishment of Slovakia as a much more trustworthy partner in the eyes of our clients. The effort to adopt e-government and electronic communication with courts is also noteworthy. What’s changed in our firm? We are one of the oldest Slovak law firms and during our 25 years of practicing law, we have trained many talented, young people, some of which became accomplished and successful attorneys. Almost all the founding partners take part in the firm to this day and share their knowledge with our younger colleagues.

How have your clients changed? Do they have different expectations now than in the past?

ZL: In the past, Slovakia was regarded as a great big unknown. Almost all commerce was conducted through Prague, the capital of the former federation. After the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, an unusual situation occurred. Companies that had previously conducted business in Slovakia and intended to continue doing so were forced to establish daughter companies or separate entities, which posed a certain challenge. Clients have often commissioned attorneys as directors or board members to ensure that the duties are performed with due care and diligence and in a manner compliant with the applicable legislation. International clients have much better situational awareness today, with many locals involved in managerial duties, as opposed to before when these duties were performed mostly by foreigners. The expectations of the clients remain the same, however. They want their interests to be protected to the maximum extent and matters to be resolved in a reliable and efficient manner. The most notable difference is the problems or queries our clients turn to us with are more complex in nature.

What about the problem with enforcement of law and excessively lengthy court proceedings?

ZL: Legal certainty has gotten better, although there still is plenty of space for improvement. The handling of the commercial registry agenda is certainly worth noting. The company’s foundation, transfer of shares and registration of changes used to take months, sometimes even years to complete. Today, it’s a matter of days thanks to digitalization of proceedings and communication with the registry courts.

Jakub Malý (JM): Alternative dispute resolution options have contributed to the enhancement of legal certainty while simplified and accelerated proceedings have aided the process of debt collection and receivables recovery. The so called “anti-shell company law” (protischránkový zákon) aims to bolster transparency and introduce a sense of decency in public procurement.

Do you concentrate on different areas of law than you did in the past?

ZL: We have always aimed to provide our clients with a comprehensive service that meets their needs, therefore the firm’s main areas of practice have grown to include data protection and certain “industry specific “matters.
JM: The affairs that our clients entrust us with essentially follow the current trends in the economy. The positive outlook may be visible in the recent real estate “boom”. We have advised our clients on a significantly higher number of real estate transactions compared to five years ago. Noticeable increase in the volume of labour and employment agenda is attributed to the dynamic development in the labour market. A strong domestic and international economy has manifested itself in the high number of M&A (mergers & acquisitions) transactions we have advised our clients on. One of the notable challenges that lie ahead will be the need to deal with the consequences of Brexit.

Is it difficult to maintain clientele when the multi-national companies generally use international law firms even in Slovakia?

ZL: Large corporations (and an increasing number of small to medium-size companies) demand a certain level of service. This includes specific formal requirements and expectations for their matters to be handled and communicated in a certain way. In-depth knowledge of not only laws but also local and international customs is a necessity. We advise many of our colleagues from abroad, including international law firms and their clients. They value many years of experience and perceive our firm as a stable and reliable partner.

Has the internal structure and workflow changed in any way? What were the influences?

ZL: We attend international conferences and forums, keep up to date with current trends in the trade. We have always strived to employ new technology and accommodate the needs of our clients, including those stemming from their corporate culture, which resulted in the adoption of certain elements in our firm as well.
JM: The technology and implementation of innovations in an effort to serve our clients as efficiently as possible has definitely influenced our workflow. Higher availability and mobility is an essential factor.

What is the most valuable asset of a law firm in general?

ZL: Reliability and dependability. The clients must have confidence that the firm safeguards their interests at all times. The attorney must not fear power and authority. We have represented clients in disputes against the state, since we have no conflict of interest (we do not provide legal services to the government). The attorney must always remain independent from the influence of third parties and the authorities, loyal to the client while maintaining confidentiality.

The founding partners of the firm have had a major influence on the development of the modern legal profession in Slovakia. One of the partners served for 20 years as the president of the Slovak Bar Association, other partners as disciplinary committee members at the Supreme court. Has this benefited the firm in any way or do you perceive it as detrimental?

ZL: Although the performance of these duties posed many challenges, it’s been an honour to contribute in this way.

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