In conversation with Stefan Antonic
In an interview with Legal 500 Stefan Antonic, Deloitte Legal leader in Serbia, gives a brief introduction to the practice in Serbia.
What do you see as the main points that differentiate your practice from your competitors?
What sets us apart from other law firms is our ability to effectively work as a team, providing excellence in client service, and exceeding client expectations. We are building a long-term partnership with our clients based on trust, loyalty, and professionalism.
Besides the above-mentioned, our lawyers are always working on getting to know the client’s industry and business operations so that the legal services provided would suit the client’s needs the best. We are always working on preventing problems that might occur, instead of waiting for them to happen and trying to remediate the consequences afterwards. We cooperate closely with Deloitte tax, financial advisory, technology and risk colleagues and are able to bring comprehensive solutions that look at our clients’ business challenges from various perspectives. By exceeding clients’ expectations and delivering top-notch legal services, we have created a team of ambitious and success-driven individuals.
Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?
Most of the market demands are dictated by the current situation in the world. As we have all been influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, which, hopefully, seems to be drawing to a close, there has been an increase in labour law, M&A, and banking and financing inquiries. Practices that will be growing in the next period will most certainly be the ones that can provide fast, pragmatic, and versatile solutions to their clients, helping them to adapt to the ongoing changes.
What's the main change you've made in the firm that will benefit clients?
One of the biggest changes in the firm that has impacted the quality of our service is introducing a wider range of service offerings from our team, to specific industries, which has made already seamless and outstanding support to our clients more beneficial. As our team grows, we are able to provide more specific and industry-focused expertise.
Over the years, our team has grown, introducing legal experts with different backgrounds, experience, and age. This change has made us build a better relationship with our clients, which made our business approach and attitude more open.
Our lawyers bring a wealth of experience in niche, specialized areas such as, for example, Sustainability. This has proven to be a great work advantage as it allows them to quickly spot any issues and work with the wider team on coming up with a solution that helps the clients advance their objectives.
Our practice of combining established and experienced legal experts with eager youngsters is the perfect set-up for all clients wishing to receive encompassing and business-savvy legal advice while providing the highest level of client service and attention to detail. Such a mentoring approach allows the more senior colleagues to share business insight for our more juniors, who are then more often focusing on specific industries and more niche areas for their development.
Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?
Being a part of the Deloitte Legal global network gives us the ability to utilize a large number of IT and technology tools to make our work efficient. We are also able to offer some of these products to our clients.
For example, large scale document-review and due diligence exercises are now both cheaper and faster thanks to IT and technology available to our network. Great emphasis was also put on simplifying and shortening repetitive reporting processes (e.g., monthly VAT reporting forms) so now we have a tool managed by legal and tax professionals enabling clients to submit their compliance reports within a matter of minutes.
Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?
There are numerous examples of the improvement in the business strategies that our firm has provided to clients. Due to the fact that our knowledge and experience are based on the legal frameworks “in the making”, we were able to directly impact questions and problems our clients have had in the past.
One example that comes to mind is the support provided to an IT company. Prior to a reorganizational structuring, they had had 150 employees. Now, almost a year later, they have over 750. We helped them with the entire structuring, including the envisioned one for where they would like to be in future – this included the creation of Employee Share Option Plans (ESOPs), as well as all the related tax advisory and corporate structuring advice. By sharing insight of our hands-on experience in assisting other clients with similar requests, we were able to add value by having all the advisory under one integrated team, which brought time and money efficiencies to the client, especially taking into consideration our project management role in this work.
Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms - where do you see the firm in three years’ time?
The size of the team, at fifteen-strong, puts us in the mid-sized practice area for Serbia, allowing an unparalleled industry focus of our individual lawyers and their possibilities to specialize in niche legal fields. This gives us the capacity to render tailored legal services in line with the needs and high expectations of our clients.
Both stability and strategic direction are things our clients are looking for when addressing our firm. We can proudly say that our team provides seamless and outstanding support to any of the clients’ requests.
In the next three years, I would love to see our firm explore the not-so-recognized practice areas, including Legal Management Consulting, and the use of Legal Technology. By keeping in touch with the latest market demands, we can help legal departments in-company improve operations and efficiencies, and help bring forward the legal industry as a whole to its next stage of development. By being at the cutting edge of Legal Technology, and its adoption, both at Deloitte, and at our clients’ firms, we facilitate better ways of working, and the benefits this brings.
*This interview first appeared in Legal 500