Ellex in Lithuania is changing its governance model as it forecasts an era of even more demanding clients
How to run a business to be a leader for 30 years and make competitors copy you? Every new or experienced businessman would probably want to know this secret. Rolandas Valiūnas, the managing partner at the law firm Ellex Valiunas (Ellex in Lithuania), confirms that everything is not so simple – you have to work much harder than others. When you find yourself on the verge of change, you need to see how to turn challenges into opportunities. That is how the managing partner presents the law firm’s changes this year – a new governance model with partners’ rotating membership.
Responsibilities will be shared on a rotating basis
The dynamics of the last few years and an increasingly growing volume of projects have shown that it would be expedient to integrate different partners’ competencies and youthful maximalism into the management scheme of the law firm. Therefore, a steering committee has been set up at the firm this year. Ellex’s long-standing partners Ramūnas Petravičius and Dovilė Greblikenė will work in the committee together with managing partner R. Valiūnas.
“2020 was a year of unprecedented growth for the law firm. No fewer ambitions and qualitative changes are planned for the next three years. More different opinions and skills are needed to coordinate these changes, so we have decided that the result could be achieved by delegating some responsibilities of the partners’ meeting and the managing partner to the steering committee,” says R. Valiūnas. These changes show that the firm has rightly invested in the future generation for several decades and is now already reaping the fruits of purposeful efforts. “We can share responsible duties with those who grew up with the values of our firm, high-quality culture, and prioritizing client interests,” says R. Valiūnas, who founded the firm together with his colleagues almost 30 years ago.
Ellex Valiunas quickly grew to become the largest law firm in the Baltics and has been ranked as a leader in various legal directories and awards for many years. Last year, the prestigious British magazine The Lawyer again recognized Ellex as the Baltics’ best law firm.
“Our clients work in a dynamic and challenging environment. Realizing this, we are changing too,” says dispute resolution partner R. Petravičius who has been in the Ellex team for over 20 years already. “We have always been at the forefront of innovation – we were the first to start operating in the Baltic states because clients saw all three countries as one market. We were also the first to organize work in practice groups, as this deepens specialization and ensures the best competence. We again were among the first in the market to use artificial intelligence. Therefore, as we are moving to a new governance model, we have the same ambition – to see more broadly and to offer step ahead services to the market.”
Strengthened the team of partners
Ellex has been running a co-head project for many years now, creating a synergy of managers with different skills and expertise and involving more and more young professionals in the firm’s management. All practices except tax law have two heads. “Managerial synergy is, first of all, a way to focus more on client needs. Obviously, there is a qualitative difference when managers can find time for both clients and the team,” says R. Petravičius.
According to him, the co-head principle also contributes to Ellex rankings – last year’s annual client survey showed that Ellex is unanimously rated as the best strategic business advisor in all Baltic countries. “Being the largest in the market, we also maintain a clear understanding that the client who comes to us must receive not only a legal but also a strategic business solution. It is not enough to reassure the client that 85 percent of disputes end in favor of our clients. In parallel, we need to ensure prompt communication, smooth and fast project management. Our long-standing mission is based on constant relationship and contacts with the client – after all, we are dealing with issues that matter to him,” noted R. Petravičius.
Ellex decided to focus partners` D. Greblikienė and R. Petravičius competencies on the steering committee’s tasks in the first rotation period. While other partners will take over the positions of the co-heads of their practices. Miroslav Nosevič, together with Giedrė Aukštuolienė, who has become a partner of the firm this year, will be co-heads of the Dispute Resolution practice for a year.
Dr. Karolis Kačerauskas will be at the helm of the Industry & Regulatory practice alongside partner Dr. Jaunius Gumbis this year.
Seeking to enhance the team’s competencies, a new partner of the firm, Dr. Olga Petroševičienė started working in the Real Estate & Environment practice. She will lead the team together with Audrius Petkevičius. The real estate sector will undoubtedly change in the coming years due to the impact of the pandemic. Therefore Ellex took into account the needs of existing clients by strengthening the managing staff.
What challenges are awaiting the legal services business in 2021?
Partner D. Greblikienė says it is possible to pursue ambitious growth targets even in the pandemic-affected market. Last year, which was full of challenges, Ellex grew in the number of lawyers, so the goal for 2021 is to provide clients with even more specialized services.
The new reality, according to Ellex’s partner, also reveals new opportunities. Virtual acquisitions of businesses, virtual employment, virtual courts and arbitration, and expanded cloud services allow the legal services sector to operate without interruption during the pandemic. This has already become commonplace.
Another vital area nowadays is an investment in technologies, which are an essential factor in the competitiveness of legal services. It is not only about more efficient management of legal projects but also more value for money.
Tolerance, gender equality, and environmental friendliness are becoming increasingly relevant and significant for the market. There are clients in Lithuania who do not hire a law firm if it is not CO2 neutral or does not have an appropriate tolerance and equality policy.
Currently, Ellex Valiunas in Vilnius has 150 employees, of which almost 100 are lawyers, and Baltic-wide network Ellex has a total of about 300 employees, of which some 200 are lawyers. Partner D. Greblikienė emphasizes that when the pandemic broke out, the firm retained the entire team and felt a rather urgent need to expand the team. Thus, today, the firm is the largest in its history in terms of the number of lawyers and law areas covered.
Client needs are changing, and significant projects last year showed what pace clients require when choosing a legal advisor. “At the end of the year, we pleased the market with the introduction of fintech start-up Curve, to which the Bank of Lithuania issued a license to operate in Lithuania – the company relocated its business to Lithuania from Great Britain due to Brexit. Our lawyers prepared all the necessary documents in just a few weeks. This is the pace that business now needs. We are demonstrating the same pace in construction and financing matters; last year our competencies operatively contributed to the construction of the new Thermofisher manufacturing facility. We also contribute to special projects such as, for example, defending Lithuania’s interests before the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding the Mobility Package,” says R. Valiūnas mentioning Ellex’s projects that are significant to Lithuania.