Legal Manager Balkans
What is your specific role, and what does this entail?
I am legal counsel for the Balkans region, responsible for five markets – Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. My role is to provide legal advice on different business-related topics to guide and to help the business to comply with the legislation of the markets in which we operate, and to support the company with my legal expertise and competences.
How is the legal team structured locally and globally?
Locally, namely for the five markets in the Balkans, I am the only one internal legal counsel, and I am based in Bulgaria. For the smaller markets we do not have dedicated in-house lawyers based in each country but one lawyer responsible for several markets. Our regional central Europe team consists of 10 lawyers responsible for the whole of Central Europe (including Nordic countries). My line manager is based in Hungary.
What are the key challenges and opportunities facing your legal team at the moment?
A key challenge for me is to familiarise myself with and to understand the business environment in five different markets. Despite being within one region – the Balkans – each of those markets has its specifics. They have different legislation, business environments and consumer mindsets. Four of the markets are outside the EU, which makes it even more challenging.
As usual the biggest challenge is the biggest opportunity as well. Working in a multinational and multicultural environment is inspiring and enriching. Having the opportunity to know the depths of the business in five different markets is a valuable asset on both a personal and a professional level.
Are there unique challenges for your legal team in dealing with multiple jurisdictions or cross-border business? Do you have an international panel?
We constantly face the scenario where we want to implement a certain strategy in all of the Balkan markets simultaneously. However, due to legislative and regulatory differences, this is not always possible. Meeting business needs in a legal and compliant way while considering the diversity of the external environment in our region can be both challenging and rewarding.
How significant are legal issues in your company’s international strategy?
We, at Avon, have a strong ethical and compliance culture. Legal compliance is a top priority for the company. We have developed a strong compliance programme. Our central Europe legal team piloted an innovative approach for presenting and educating business on legal topics in an easy-to-digest and interesting way via cartoons, movies, etc. We want our people not only to comply with the law but also to truly understand it, to see the reason and logic behind it, and to cherish the culture of integrity that we have.
When would you typically enlist external counsel rather than doing the work in-house?
It depends on the project, type of work and the country. When it comes to markets different from Bulgaria (I am a qualified Bulgarian lawyer), I liaise with external legal counsel quite often. For regional projects I do prefer to be engaged myself and do the work in-house compared with the small local tasks, where local language and local legislation knowledge is needed.
How do you instruct external counsel domestically and internationally?
I have a good communication with our external legal counsel. Usually we discuss the case via email or over the phone. It is really important for me that external legal counsel understands the business logic and the rationale behind a project.
What are the key elements in making a decision about which external counsel to hire?
Expertise and knowledge, as well as a good reputation are of great importance to me when it comes to external legal counsel support. I need to have a reliable partner whom I may trust. Legal rates are also important, of course. Every company tries to optimise the costs, so having a reasonable offer is a significant plus. One more thing that is important for me is to have, if possible, one and the same provider of legal services in most of the markets for which I am responsible. Thus, I shall be able to have more time-saving processes and one communication hub.
What are your best and worst experiences in hiring external counsel?
My best experience was to have a ‘one-stop-shop’ external legal counsel for more than one market. This offers me a single point of contact in case of a similar project being dealt with on different markets.
My worst experience was being confronted with an unprofessional attitude and lack of expertise.
What makes a great in-house counsel?
A great in-house counsel should have in-depth knowledge of the business and understand the business’s processes. A great in-house counsel should be a friendly but also vigilant consultant to the business, he or she should try sometimes to ‘escape’ from the lawyer’s skin and to get into business’s shoes.
- HQ Location: New York, NY, United States
- Industry/sector: Beauty, household and personal care
- Year of foundation: 1886
- Company reach: Worldwide
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All statements and opinions expressed herein are those of the individual and not the organisation.
Published July 2017