In conversation with Tarja Krehic

In an interview with Legal 500, Tarja Krehic, Managing Partner at Krehic & Partners, in cooperation with Deloitte Legal, gives a brief introduction to the legal practice in Croatia.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate your practice from your competitors?

Well, being able to offer a “one-stop-shop” of multi-disciplinary models, which means integrated solutions with input not only from Legal, but also Tax, Financial Advisory, Consulting, and Assurance, means we provide greater convenience and time-savings for our clients. Combined with our extensive geographical presence, we can efficiently help companies based in Croatia with presence in the region, or world-wide, or global players with regional coverage. These are certainly a couple of strong differentiators for our practice compared to others on the market.

Further, I should add that we are one of the very few law firms in Croatia offering LMC (Legal Management Consulting) and LMS (Legal Management Services) to our clients. The demand for these premium and sophisticated, technology-driven services shows a high level of professionalism regarding compliance in our clients’ corporate legal departments, across various industries. I believe it also shows their interest in using the latest technologies to improve their legal policies, and legal department operations. Offering LMC and LMS, and the wider technology-based and compliance service packages, is another key differentiator that really sets us apart and makes us stand out from regional law firms as well as from local major players.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

What we now see is that there is a very high level of activity in M&A on both the Croatian and regional markets. Only our law firm has worked on some of the largest M&A transactions in the country, and we expect this to continue over the next 12 months. This is not just the case in the ICT and production industries, but also in the media. This is evidenced by the recent announcement regarding the planned Central European Media Enterprise’s acquisition of RTL Croatia - a deal which we are still working on. At a general level, it appears that a number of Croatian companies have now reached the point where they are becoming attractive for strategic partners, or private equity investors, as they are generating profit. It has taken them 10-30 years to reach this level of maturity, but now they are at this level, they seek strategic, or financial, investors in order to properly structure themselves, properly implement employee share option plans (ESOP), and then to go public. Notably these will not be IPOs in Croatia, but in London or New York - and these should continue happening in the next 12 months.

Thus, I think we can already say, post-pandemic, these M&A transactions go on, because many of the banks do have quite a lot of funds available to invest, and the interest rates remain low. This is a key driver behind this trend. One other reason for this increase in M&A activity is that buyers find themselves in a good negotiating position. So, for those able to invest, and to buy targets, there are some excellent opportunities available.

What's the main change you've made in the firm that will benefit clients?

There have been quite a few changes made in the last year which will definitely benefit our clients.

Firstly, I think it would be worth noting that we have recently expanded activities into the area of ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) which is a relatively new legal offering in this part of the legal world, but now growing in demand. By being among the first to provide these kinds of offerings on the market, we have growing expertise because of our ability to work on these types of multi-disciplinary projects with our colleagues from the Deloitte network. This will be of growing importance to clients and will benefit them greatly as ESG becomes more important.

One other change that comes to mind is that we are now able to provide more holistic GDPR compliance assistance. Working as part of a multi-disciplinary team together with colleagues from Consulting and Forensics teams of the Deloitte network, we are able to support our clients not only with legal, but also with cyber and consulting aspects. This is quite unique on the market. The combined practical technological insight with legal GDPR and compliance expertise is of benefit to our clients.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

The last couple of years, due to the pandemic, has seen us more quickly adopt technologies inside our legal network, and to streamline our business processes. What would have taken a few years to achieve in terms of change, has happened much sooner. By being early adopters of technologies ourselves, we can see the efficiencies that this brings in practice, and are then very enthusiastic, and convincing, in sharing these solutions and benefits to our clients. When our own lawyers realize the time-savings that can be gained through legal technology application, especially for bulk or repetitive work, they are then very happy to share this knowledge with the client legal counsel and bring great value to them then improving their own efficiencies.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

Recently, we assisted our client, which markets itself as a technology powerhouse in manufacturing hyper-cars, in the implementation of the Halo Platform. This is a whistle-blowing reporting and notification platform, and was set up, with our coordination, for the entire international group of companies. By having this solution, it helped the client in avoiding the time, cost, and risk aspects of setting up their own whistle-blowing system from zero, and added value, in many ways, but particularly in terms of strengthening the transparency of the internal compliance and reporting procedures.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms - where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

I am very pleased that our M&A practice has been a market-leader, over the last few years, with clients trusting us with their strategic objectives in Croatia and the Central European region. We are very keen on further expanding our team as part of Deloitte’s long-term strategy to enhance our legal advisory capabilities. I see opportunities in areas such as Banking & Finance, as well as Regulatory and Compliance, for example.

Regarding stability and strategic direction, this is an area where our practice is strong. Our team has many years of experience on the market and brings together this insight and know-how to our growing practice. Our clients can be sure that we will be here, when they need us, now, and in the years ahead. And, in not only giving legal advisory in isolation, but by taking a business-oriented view on activities, we can give true strategic advice, incorporating the financial and tax aspects, or opportunities, that various legal solutions imply. This certainly adds value to our clients in taking them in the direction they wish to go.

*This interview first appeared in Legal 500

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