Did you as a child have the tendency to settle “disputes” between your friends?
Yes, in my childhood I had a tendency to enter into disputes and settle them. Often, I also joined disputes that didn´t concern me. (Laughing..) I must admit several times I was the one who actually initiated the dispute. And to top it all up, the disputes I initiated, I tried to win. It is in my nature to take responsibility for others, so it comes as no surprise that I am working in law.
Does your family have a law background?
No, I don’t come from a family of lawyers. No one in my immediate circle is an advocate or a lawyer. My mom is a teacher, she loves working with kids, and my dad has been in management all his life at an energy company. As a kid, I loved soap operas set in a legal environment and was utterly fascinated by the rivalry of the parties in the courtroom. The idea of becoming an attorney and representing clients excited me. I can quickly become passionate about things and if I’m really passionate about something, I can devote a lot of time to it.
You studied an interesting combination of management and law and spent part of your studies in Malta. Why did you choose this combination?
When I was finishing law school, it was quite difficult to find a job as a trainee lawyer. The salary conditions were not motivating. At that time, schools were churning out a lot of law students and firms were spoilt for choice. I was aware of the need to differentiate myself from others and to have a competitive advantage. I decided to major in management, marketing and law. This combination allows me to better understand not only legal but also economic topics, which has helped me a lot in practice. Studying abroad is one of the things I definitely recommend to young people. It´s a very valuable experience. I had the opportunity to get to know a new country, a different school system, to improve my language and to meet a lot of interesting people.
My education in management, marketing and law allows me to understand not only legal but also economic topics, which has helped me a lot in practice.
You advise clients on matters relating to commercial matters, cross-border mergers and acquisitions. What do you enjoy about this area?
I have been involved in M&A transactions for several years now, I must say it is an extremely interesting area. Often these are time-consuming, impactful projects. Each transaction brings with it something new. Imagine buying an ambulance one day, selling an industrial park the next day, or buying a well-established IT company with millions in sales and hundreds of employees. These transactions require knowledge from multiple cross-cutting areas and open up the opportunity to understand companies in their day-to-day operations. It is an area that allows me to get things done – from planning the entire transaction in terms of timing and steps, contract documentation drafting, negotiating terms, to the actual transaction closing.
Your legal practice covers a number of topics – information technology, finance, competition, public procurement and corporate. You specialize in the areas of data protection and have experience in real estate projects. Why this mix?
At act MPH advocates we have many attractive clients from various business sectors, which naturally creates room for realization in various law areas. On the other hand, this also puts slight pressure on the expertise of our team members.
Do you see some synergies in these areas?
It is important for me to be a reliable and trustworthy partner for my clients. I believe that an attorney can be a good partner to a client only when he understands the client’s business. Practising in these areas has given me a broad insight into the law. Long-term legal advice to clients in the same field or in M&A transactions allows me to get a feel for what the client does, what the client’s core business is, what the processes of the client’s business are.
Is it possible to estimate what area the lawyer will be specialising in?
We make sure that the individual team members are more closely profiled in some areas. With younger colleagues, I think it’s important for them to try multiple areas and to profile themselves in what they enjoy. This is a path that I have followed myself.
What is your unique approach to a seemingly disparate agenda?
I´ve had the opportunity to work on a variety of interesting assignments, projects and disputes. Also, I´ve been involved in the contractual documentation drafting for several development projects, setting up relationships between the client and the contractor in the creation of large software solutions or the provision of maintenance, support and development services. Furthermore, also provided legal advice in the field of public procurement, both on the side of bidders and contracting authorities. I love to participate in large projects from the beginning. The crucial element is that each project is approached comprehensively and addresses not only the client’s requirements but also risks that the client may not be aware of. Large projects, but above all companies, employers or public administration entities, face a myriad of rules to follow and it is therefore critical to be aware of them. Not everyone is though and it causes an awful lot of distress and possible penalties when not handled at the beginning. The common denominator, and the thing I enjoy about these projects, is that when I look back I can see the result behind me.
Which of the law areas is ”close to your heart”?
Definitely transactions and IT projects.
With the rise of GDPR and amended local legislation related to data protection, awareness of personal data has increased. Every corporation is addressing this topic; you have been dealing with GDPR for a long time. Can anything still surprise you in this area?
(Laughing..) Yes, this area of regulation is still interesting because it´s constantly evolving. Every time I feel that nothing might surprise me anymore, life brings another GDPR topic to which we need to find a solution.
You are also involved in environmental issues. If it weren’t for the pandemic, climate change and green energy are the number one topics in the world.
I consider environmental protection to be extremely important. Climate change and green energy are issues that resonate in society, but only on a small scale compared to the fight against the pandemic. However, that doesn´t mean that these topics have been forgotten. The economic slowdown caused by the pandemic alone has shown that nature can clean itself up if human intervention is eased. Climate change cannot be therefore tackled at a local level – there needs to be a consensus at the level of global leaders.
What are you working on in this area?
We provide legal advice to clients in the development sector (e.g. in obtaining permits in planning and construction procedures, in the implementation of EIAs). We also deal with clients operating in the waste management sector. Speaking for myself, I have to say that I don´t know of regulations that change more frequently than waste management and tax regulations.
I don’t know of regulations that change more frequently than waste management regulation.
You have represented clients before the court in private law disputes and administrative proceedings. Is there a story that sticks in your mind?
In my practice, I primarily specialize in the area of administrative justice. In one dispute, we represented a client in connection with the inaction of a local authority that failed to pay per-pupil subsidies to a private art school. This involved the selective approach and arbitrariness of a city mayor who failed to pay subsidies to an entity. The dispute lasted almost three years and was dealt with by the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic. We succeeded in the dispute and the subsidies were paid to the recipient retroactively and were used to finance the art school. I was very sensitive to the victory, partly because from the beginning I perceived extreme injustice and abuse of power on the part of the mayor of the city. I was genuinely pleased with the result – it was a joy to see how much good energy a private art school can bring to a city and the enthusiastic teachers who give a piece of themselves to the children.
Is the litigation agenda specific to your team in any way?
Litigation takes years in Slovakia and the outcome can be uncertain despite a good strategy. I am very pleased when we are able to defend a client’s claim and succeed. It should be added, however, that in litigation the outcome can take a long time. We have a great team in our office, which deals primarily with litigation. Our law firm defended its win in 2021 in the Litigation category in the Law Firm of the Year survey organized under the auspices of epravo.sk.
Which projects inspire you?
As a junior associate, I worked in the team of advisors for the Ministry of Transport in the Slovak Republic. We worked on the implementation of the public procurement for the PPP project D4R7. I had the opportunity to experience how a good team can deliver incredible things. It gave me valuable insights and the opportunity to learn from the best. This was the first project I discovered what procurement regulations are all about. Since then, I´ve worked on many cases where public procurement issues have been addressed and this area has naturally become my speciality.
One of my favourite areas is still IT legal advice. In the office, we often provide legal advice to companies that are doing business in this segment. This is, for example, a good setup of a work contract or a service contract.
There aren’t many women lawyers with the title of a partner. act MPH advocates is rather an exception in the market, with several women at partner level in the team. Why is that?
act MPH advocates was founded by three male attorneys. Gradually, they have recruited women partners who have contributed to the growth and development of the law firm with their skills and professionalism. I think that thanks to the combination of the strong male and female worlds, act MPH advocates has managed to become one of the most successful law firms on the Slovak market.
You are one of the successful women who became a law firm partner at a young age. What was your journey from a young associate?
After school, I started working as a trainee at a bailiff’s office. I had mastered the subject matter in a relatively short time and felt that I had nowhere to grow professionally. I, therefore, decided to go into advocacy, even though at that time the salary was not very attractive. I started working in a small law firm where I had the opportunity to handle cases in different law areas. My desire to work on big projects and be part of international teams led me to change employers. I started working for a Czech-Slovak law firm that specialized in IP/IT, public procurement and international arbitration. After gaining a lot of experience specifically in the field of information technology and public procurement, I joined act MPH advocates fresh out of the bar exams. For the last five years, I have invested a lot of energy and time in dealing with client matters and have built up the trust of both clients and founding partners. The ability to independently solve cases and a responsible work approach, combined with hard work, led to the offer of partnership, which, frankly, made me very happy.
Do you perceive differences in the market in the approach and work of women lawyers compared to their male counterparts?
Yes, I do perceive differences between men and women. I can evaluate this on myself, and on the younger generation of lawyers. Women are much more meticulous and responsible. Men, on the other hand, have the ability to look at solving problems differently, they are more courageous in their search for solutions and command natural respect in negotiation. I think that by combining the best of both worlds, we have an excellent team of top professionals in the office who are a valuable asset on the human side as well.
Law and justice are probably not synonymous terms. Do you happen to deal with the conflict between these two?
There is no need to argue about what law and justice are. It is a question that has been asked by philosophers since antiquity, Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato not least. Justice and law. They are two categories that, from my point of view, cannot be completely identified. They are also two words that we cannot imagine without each other. Often times we evaluate common everyday situations from a subjective stance on whether or not it is fair. What might be fair for one might not be fair for another and vice versa. This is precisely why they are inseparable. That is why there are laws offering solutions for everyone. I understand the law as a set of norms that determine how one should behave. The case of a legal norm presupposes that when a certain situation occurs, the law associates certain legal consequences with it. Whether in the form of granting rights or triggering sanctions. However, it should not be forgotten that law and justice are not immutable concepts and change over time and in content, often based on moral norms. This can be illustrated by simple examples. In the past, for example, the death penalty was a common punishment to which an offender was sentenced for committing a crime. Today, the death penalty is exceptional, and the doctrine of the understanding of human rights belonging to the individual in modern legal systems has contributed to the condemnation of the death penalty as an inhumane means of punishment. And many such examples could be found… Child labour, legalized abortion, women’s suffrage, euthanasia, legalized marijuana, etc.
What book has caught your attention lately?
I just started reading a book called “You Can Be Happy No Matter What”. According to the author, the feeling of happiness has nothing to do with external circumstances but is about the fact that being happy is the natural state of every human being. So it’s about finding inner happiness – how to be happy with yourself. I completely agree with this view. The book offers five simple practices on how to get rid of stress, create harmonious relationships with people and lead a peaceful and successful life.
What recharges your batteries?
Family, sports and nature. I like to spend my free time walking, hiking or playing sports. In summer I like cycling, in winter I like skiing. I am the most relaxed when I compensate mental work with physical activity. I don’t disdain a good movie or a good dinner with family or friends. Besides, I like to travel and get to know new countries. I enjoy cooking and experimenting with foreign cuisines.