Anton Podilchak, Managing Partner, Advice Group

“Multi-tasking and multi-specialization are the core competitive advantages of regional counsels in Lviv”

What is the influence of your proximity to the EU on the legal market of Western Ukraine? Can you name three distinctive features of the legal landscape?

Proximity to the EU definitely influences the local business environment foremost in a philosophical approach, by setting up significantly different from the rest of Ukraine mindset, values and practices.
I would say there are two key reasons for that — first is the global mobility of Western Ukrainians, having more ties to Europe via travel, work and living experience of their own, or their relatives abroad, which is actively implemented upon their return home. Second is the active engagement of small and medium businesses from Western countries on the local market, while they come, they bring their best practices, inclusive — paying lawyers also for work, not only for solutions.

Among distinctive features I would name is the free spirit of people — motivating for litigation and dispute resolutions at all levels of the social environment, starting with legal fights over five square metres of land, right to use the playground, etc., all the way to corporate disputes and administrative fights against bureaucracy. Secondly, foreign business created a hi-end compliant legal market but with a very thin spread for high density of professionals to compete for the client, meanwhile the mid-level service drops out of the game, leaving just traditional “one-man-show” attorneys for the rest of the market. Thirdly, all firms de facto declare a high level of integrity and anti-corruption, but only a few of them really fulfill that declaration, leaving a great deal of litigation to be taken to the Supreme Court. It also worth mentioning that due to the high level of competition and little work to be revised, the local legal culture has been raised to a brand-new level, striving for de facto establishment of the rule of law, respect towards human dignity and fair play. Fourthly, law firms in the region are usually more involved in the local everyday life of a  community, cooperating deeply with NGOs, local authorities, representing the expert legal opinion on drafting local regulations, organization and participation of local events for businesses and other stakeholders.

What is the source of clients for regional law firms?

Firstly and best of all, word of mouth! Existing satisfied clients are the best referral generators. Another point of reference is the EBA and local authorities dealing with foreign investors. Good clients also come from diplomatic circles quite often. We also have a good practice of “direct sale” via meeting potential clients at foreign business events or directly at their offices.

Where does the competition come from? What are the core competitive advantages of regional counsels in Lviv?

Competition in the region is rooted in a limited market and a great amount of legal resources: law firms tend to fight for a big client, who is normally a foreign investor and/or big firm with a long local history. We believe that within the regional legal market the multi-tasking and multi-specialization are the core competitive advantages of regional counsels in Lviv. With a limited amount of time, a regional counsel accomplishes a bigger amount of qualitative legal services than a universal legal professional representing him/her. We also believe that local councils are often more into detail-inspired solutions due to proximity to the client and low load.