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The Warsaw Voice » Law » October 8, 2008
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Solutions, Not Stuffy Manners
October 8, 2008   
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Beata Gessel, managing partner at the Gessel i Wspólnicy law firm, talks to Beata Gołębiewska.

You set up your own law firm in 1993. What made you take this step? Wasn't it a big risk? After all, the market economy in Poland was still in its infancy.
The risk was substantial, but the imperative was even greater. I felt I had to do my own thing. Working in an international law firm was not fully satisfying. I didn't feel good as a cog in a huge machine. I wanted to make decisions for myself. I'm not saying I didn't have my fears, but I took the plunge and have no regrets today.

What were the most important periods in the development of your firm?
I see two stages in my firm's development. For the first 10 years we operated quite spontaneously, in the rhythm of the economy. Leszek Koziorowski joining the firm (five years ago) caused us to take a more pragmatic approach. We devised a strategy according to which we are developing to this day.

Apart from mergers and acquisitions, the pillars of our operations are venture capital and private equity, securities law, the German desk and intellectual property rights. Complementary teams develop around these core practices, dealing with taxes, competition protection, court disputes and real estate.

Your corporate image is not exactly typical for a law firm. Others highlight their stability and professionalism, while you add a dash of panache-is that your own personality coming through, or a deliberate tactic?
In this case, I would say it was personality, not tactics. I don't like empty bragging and stuffy manners-qualities that are often part of a lawyer's image. I don't like standardization, not in clothing and not in a job. I seek solutions, not templates.

Could you tell us the story of the tiger?
The tiger on our website is from the first picture I ever bought. It hung in my office at first, and now it is right next to the entrance to our reception. The artist is Ryszard Grzyb.

The tiger has become a kind of symbol of our law firm. I want to say, though, that our tiger is not predatory. It doesn't have to be-it knows what it wants and how to achieve it.

What do you see as the firm's future? Do you have an overriding vision, or do you flow with the currents of economic life, reacting to whatever the market situation brings?
Of course, like any company we have a strategy of operation. However, we don't hang on to it at all costs-we react quickly to changes. This is made easier by the firm's independence and its small group of partners-there are just six of us. We don't have to hold a teleconference to decide anything.

At the end of every year we draw up our plan for the next year. This time, because of the firm's 15th anniversary, the plans will also cover the next five years.

Are you afraid of the impact of the U.S. crisis on the Polish market?
Watching the American crisis not so much terrifies as fascinates me. Toppling giants lay bare the structure of economic mechanisms, the links among sectors and countries. I think that the Polish economy will feel the impact of the U.S. crisis, but not as strongly as Western European countries. Our banks, for example, are subject to stricter controls than American banks. This means they were unable to invest too much in risky instruments. The effects of the crisis could be neutralized in Poland by the ongoing intake of European Union funds and the introduction of the euro.

I don't see any great danger for our law firm. The list of stock exchange debuts is getting a little shorter, but on the other hand we expect new private equity transactions. The amount of work should balance out. I don't think next year will be worse for us than this year.
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