Can you give our Legal Business readers an overview of PATH Law?
PATH, established in 2016, was among the first Polish law firms to recognise private clients as an independent legal practice.
The decision to focus on the needs of private clients was a risky one, but pioneering and rewarding too. Very soon PATH entered the international rankings in second place in Poland, and reached number one a year later. Now we are celebrating the fourth consecutive year as a tier one Polish firm for private clients, helping them to secure their businesses, expand their companies locally and internationally or establish efficient tax, trust and wealth planning structures.
In parallel, we have been successfully developing the second pillar of PATH, ie, corporate and M&A practice, providing comprehensive advice on M&A and VC transactions as well as domestic and cross-border restructurings. Also, we advise our clients at all stages of their businesses’ life cycles, including establishing corporate governance and joint ventures.
Our aim is to build an independent firm with a recognised brand, a wide range of services and a strong legacy both in Poland and abroad, hence our decision to open PATH Family Office (Suisse) SA in Geneva in 2019.
What do you see as the main points that rank PATH Law as a leading firm in the Polish legal business market?
Unlike the previous generation of Polish lawyers, whose focus was on drafting legal opinions and representing clients in court, we promote a well-rounded approach by offering pragmatic, commercially sound and future-proof legal solutions to our clients’ problems. Our ultimate goal is to contribute to their business decision making and wealth management with our legal expertise.
Also, combining a portfolio of private and corporate clients makes it quite a unique feature of PATH’s corporate and M&A practice, which distinguishes it from other law firms on the Polish market, whose experience is mostly confined to serving corporate clients.
What helps us differ in a positive way from the rest of the competition is that the solutions we provide are stable from a legal and tax perspective and, at the same time, adjustable to the ever-changing external conditions.
Given the problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic, how has this affected your firm?
During the pandemic our main priority was the health and safety of all stakeholders, including employees, clients, business partners and their families.
Even before Covid -19, some of us worked remotely, thus we had systems in place allowing us to maintain the information flow. That was the key to effective communication, given the fact that suddenly most of our lawyers started to work from their homes.
Covid-19 has also resulted in a rapid flurry of new legislation and executive orders from government entities. Our clients, confronted with having to apply both pre-existing and newly-enacted law in a number of areas related to Covid-19, turned to us for advice. We successfully offered our guidance to multiple entities with respect to various subsidies implemented by the Polish government, such as tax and social security reliefs and liquidity support for small-to-medium and large enterprises in the form of ‘anti-crisis shields’.
What have been the standout matters that demonstrate PATH Law’s strengths?
PATH partners have considerable experience in each of their fields of expertise, in most cases driven by their experience in international law firms and regulatory authorities. Not only can they successfully advise their clients on legal aspects but they may also be open-minded and down-to-earth partners for business discussions with clients and their management teams. They know how to use the international legal environment to the benefit of clients while providing safety in terms of domestic regulations. Combining tax and legal competences with a great knowledge of how financial and capital markets work in Poland and abroad makes them special and particularly helpful.
Can you talk about any trends or changes you are seeing emerge especially across corporate, commercial and M&A, capital markets and corporate restructuring areas?
As statistics show, the number of M&A transactions in 2021 has increased significantly in comparison to 2020. While the pandemic definitely had an impact on M&A deals on a short-term horizon, we have been living with Covid on a daily basis for some time now and market players were able to take into account its precise effect for the purpose of any upcoming projects. The clear signal from the market is that it is no longer an issue for most of the players when considering acquisitions or divestitures. Needless to say, there are sectors which remained not only unaffected, but grew significantly thanks to the pandemic, like the IT, e-commerce, e-mobility and logistics sectors.
Worldwide supply chain disruptions, affecting many industries, eg, the manufacturing, e-mobility, pharmaceutical and medical sectors, make room for considering vertical-integration deals. This approach is seemingly working on both sides, ie, to secure raw materials and materials on one hand, and to ensure the proper distribution of products, on the other hand. We believe this tendency will be sustained and develop further in 2022.
Lastly, given the energy transformation needs we are facing not only in Poland but worldwide, the renewable energy market is expected to keep expanding. It goes without saying that recent events in Ukraine will affect EU countries’ determination to adjust their energy mix, with renewables becoming even more important than they are currently.
Earlier this year PATH Law merged with the successfully progressive firm Kielian and Partners. You now operate under one brand – PATH Law Hatylak Kielian and Partners. What does the merger mean to your firm and the Polish legal business market as a whole? And what will be the benefits new and existing clients can expect?
This merger means a lot to us and we are sure that our clients will appreciate it in a very short time. With a new team on board, our M&A, VC and private equity (PE) skills have definitely become stronger. We can add to our list of expertise new items, like capital markets, AML, regulatory matters, listed companies, investment funds, real estate and renewable energy firms. All of them fit perfectly with the business profile run by our current clients and we can now provide them with a greater range of services. Also, our combined fields of expertise allow us to provide our clients with a 360° view in a number of cases we are handling. We can already feel that it has been a turning point for PATH and we are following our synergy plan step by step. With the consolidation tendency present in the Polish legal market, we could not have made a better decision.
With a lower level of inbound deals in the CEE market and smaller profit margins affecting the international firms, does this opportunity enhance your firm to take on more market share within the region?
Absolutely. We believe consolidation is the proper answer to the signals we are all getting from the market in terms of decreasing profit margins. Our strategy is based on a few pillars. While we cannot share all of them for strategic reasons let me give you a summary. The first one is definitely extending the scope of services and, as a result, increasing the volume of work. We are sure our enlarged team will handle this challenge. The second one is obviously the price-to-quality ratio. Given the competences of PATH partners and their teams, we are able to provide domestic and international clients with a quality comparable to international law firms while maintaining competitive fees. We already know that clients can see this difference. Thirdly, our complementary lines of business – legal, tax and family office – mean, at the end of the day, lower overall costs of our clients and the possibility to get all services in one place.
How would you describe the investment climate in Poland? Which sectors offer the largest potential to prospective clients?
We believe that PE valuations are expected to remain high in 2022. Supply chain disruptions will drive sector entrepreneurs into considering vertical deals. The financial market will need to adapt to the market’s demand in terms of financing acquisitions or divestitures. We believe that 2022 will offer a great number of opportunities when considering investments in Poland. Speaking of sectors, IT, e-commerce, e-mobility and logistics will most probably remain at the top. Healthcare, biotechnology, real estate and fast-moving consumer goods will also be on the increase. We sincerely hope that the Polish government will eventually open the regulatory door for the development of wind farm energy plants, a move which is widely expected by domestic and international entrepreneurs acting in this area.
Are there any specific international jurisdictions your firm has earmarked for growth over the next year? And why?
In PATH we follow our clients to those jurisdictions where their businesses are present. The fact is that international tax structuring services of PATH can involve every jurisdiction in the world.
Since opening PATH Family Office (Suisse) SA in Geneva, Switzerland we are very focused on this jurisdiction which, especially in these turbulent times, proves to be a safe harbour for private clients and holding companies. It is worth noting that, although not in the EU, Switzerland has bilateral trade agreements in place with every country in Europe.
However, PATH is also looking eastwards. The unprecedented situation on Poland’s eastern border in the short term could also trigger new opportunities. Russia already faces a huge investment drop. The sanctions imposed will ban new investments and a global business exodus will close the Russian market for years. This could be an opportunity for boosting Polish light industry, agricultural processing, fintech, etc. Given its location, good infrastructure, developed financial systems and access to a professional workforce, Poland appears predisposed to become an investment hub in the new political and economic environment.
What would you say is the most important part of any client relationship?
A strong business relationship starts and finishes with client satisfaction. There are a number of proven ways to build and maintain a strong and positive relation. In PATH, once we successfully get the client on board, our strategy is to do our job the best we can, earn the client’s trust and continue to re-engage for future projects. Continuing to work with existing clients also leads to referrals to other clients and can often be more effective than focusing on gaining brand new business all the time. We build our relations with clients on responsiveness, accessibility, understanding our clients’ goals and exceeding expectations.
Additionally, we are passionate about our job and enjoy engaging ourselves and our clients in joint initiatives outside of work, related to music and art or sometimes business networking and charity. This helps us to connect with our clients, develop a relationship and sense of community in which they feel welcomed.
What is it about PATH Law that has enabled you to retain talent within the firm?
Today’s Polish employers, regardless of whether they are law firms or others, are struggling to keep talent on board. We all know that having an effective employee retention plan is crucial, as it secures stable client service, retains knowledge within the firm and helps to reduce performance losses and recruitment costs.
It is likely that the pandemic increased people’s reflections about their jobs and made them rethink their careers. This is why, these days, retention of the right people within an organisation requires paying much closer attention to their needs.
We believe there is no single method to protect against losing valued employees.
Each organisation is different and requires its own techniques and strategies. For us, it is important to be accessible to our lawyers, engage in discussions and brainstorm the cases, gather their thoughts and ideas. We understand the value of real-time feedback on what they are doing well and where we see opportunities for improvement. We ask our lawyers what work they would like to do more or less of and how they think they could have an impact on the firm in the future. We offer our lawyers projects that are meaningful, challenging and give them visibility.
PATH Law is a market-leading law firm specializing in comprehensive legal and tax advice. The firm offers expertise in complementary business lines – legal, tax and family office. PATH Law supports entrepreneurs, capital groups, HNWI, family businesses and other organisations.
PATH Law renders professional advice in all legal and tax matters, including knowledge of European and non-European jurisdictions. The firm focuses on a direct, constant contact rooted in trust and knowledge of the needs of the client.
Companies and their owners are offered professional legal support, starting from company formation by offering effective capital structures through ongoing service, ownership changes, transformations of both partnerships and companies, mergers, divisions, and liquidation. PATH Law corporate and M&A team advises on mergers and acquisitions as well as venture capital transactions, company financing and corporate law for domestic and foreign clients.
For more information, please contact:
Dominika Mizielińska focuses on company law, commercial law and civil law. In her 25 years’ practice she has advised numerous international and Polish clients in acquisitions and disposals of assets, companies and shares, company and group restructurings (including domestic and cross-border mergers, de-mergers and transformations) and formation of joint ventures. Prior to joining PATH Law in 2017, for many years she was associated with global law firms.
Dominika Mizielińska, partner
Sergiusz Kielian is a M&A and investment transactions lawyer with more than 20 years of experience. He acts for clients from a variety of sectors, assisting them within M&A, VC and investment transactions. He has substantial experience in FMCG, e-mobility, renewable energy and logistics sectors. Prior to joining PATH Law, for many years he was associated with an international law firm.
Sergiusz Kielian, partner
PATH Law Hatylak Kielian and Partners
1A Moniuszki St.
00-014 Warsaw, Poland
T: +48 22 212 04 50