Radovan Lalin, Lawyer:

To Be IndependentIs Most Important

The legal profession is a domain that must be beyond all pressures and influences

Representing successful domestic companies and individuals abroad, as well as foreign companies in Serbia, forms the backbone of the work of Novi Sad-based Lalin & Partners Law Office. This law firm deals exclusively with items with an international element, making it specific and recognisable in Serbia. International business structuring, International tax planning, Family office, Successful succession, Residence and Citizenship planning, IT and IP international protection and development – there are only a selection of the specialised services offered to clients by this firm.

Lawyers have been in the focus of the domestic public in recent years, primarily due to the internal problems confronting the profession, but also in the context of relations with institutions. In terms of the problem, it is not exclusive to this profession, but it is interesting that such a respectable and successful profession is constantly confronted by cases of misconduct. Why is that so?

– It is important for the legal profession to preserve its independence. Only an independent, free and professional legal sector is a guarantee of the protection and realisation of basic human rights and freedoms of the citizens of a state. The legal sector will resolve all the problems that it has “internally” by itself.

As a specialist in the field of international business relations, how would you assess the environment for doing business in Serbia and which obstacles are confronted by foreign investors when they choose Serbia as an investment destination?

– When it comes to the environment for doing business in our country, alongside all the problems that arise, I must note that the atmosphere in our country doesn’t differ markedly from other countries in the region. Of course, there is always room for improvement, such as, for example, more diligent work of the state authorities at the local level. Likewise, a large number of regulations are not harmonised mutually or with EU regulations – such as, for example, when it comes to payments to domestic companies via the PayPal system. Serbia still needs to be actively engaged in the process of harmonising the entire body of its regulations with the EU acquis.

In 1987 he specialised in international public law, then in 1990 studied international private law at The Hague Academy of International Law. He studied further in London (UK), Limassol (Cyprus), New York (U.S.) and Nassau (Bahamas). In 2002 he received the title of ‘Expert in International Tax Law Cross-border Transactions’ in Switzerland

Your field of expertise is international law and foreign investment. To what extent have we managed to find the right way to attract investors and how is that done by other countries?

– All countries give their all to attract as many foreign investments as possible, in accordance with their own needs. We have room for serious progress in this field. Many European countries, for example, attract wealthy individuals and families, particularly from Asia, Russia and China, who are already successful businesspeople in their own countries and who have vast knowledge and experience, but who have to expand their businesses and seek new countries from which to operate and where they will live better. With special types of investments, they most often gain the status of “nondomicile residence”. After that they receive exceptional tax breaks and soon gain permanent residence, and then citizenship. In this way, these countries achieve large capital inflows that are measured in the billions of euros and gained qualified and capable businesspeople. This way of attracting foreign investors is practised by a large number of EU countries and the U.S.

We attract investments by giving foreign investors 10,000 euros for every new job created, and as far as I know that’s a unique practise in the world. On the other hand, such investment incentives result in the creation of a large number of jobs, which is certainly positive. In future we need to expand and modernise our range of investment incentives, which would certainly yield good results. An example of this are the incentives offered in the film industry, which is slowly growing in Serbia and already yielding positive results.

Yours is the only law office in Serbia that is a member of MERITAS, the global association of independent legal and law offices. What is the effect of membership in MERITAS?

– Meritas is the leading global alliance of independent law firms, which provides legal and business representation in 89 countries worldwide through joint work, with 7,614 lawyers from 182 law firms. You can become a member exclusively by invitation, following extensive checks on the quality of your work. There is no permanent membership in MERITAS – the process of membership recertification is carried out every other year, in order to continuously maintain and improve the level and quality of legal and advocate services provided to clients. LALIN & PARTNERS has been a member of MERITAS for 21 years already. It is a great honour and a great responsibility to be in such company, and a significant number of contacts and recommendations of clients don’t enable you to reax and allow the quality of your own professional work to fall.

RADOVAN LALIN

The recently current “Paradise Papers”, after the “Panama Papers”, are in my opinion sensationalist journalism aimed at revealing “exotic” information publicly, and that’s information that is almost worthless in the legal sense. Of course, you don’t need to absolve the culprits – those who are really proven to have evaded tax. But no one can be placed on the “pillar of shame” if they comply with laws and other legal regulations in their operations

You are also known for having once fought as a lawyer to protect the EXIT FESTIVAL from excessive charges for the use of phonograms. According to your judgement, to what extent has the problem of protecting intellectual property rights been systematically resolved?

– We fought not only to protect against excessively high charges for the use of phonograms, but also for fair payments for the use of copyrights according to SOKOJ (the Serbian Music Authors Organisation). We succeeded in changing the conditions in both cases and they are now far more acceptable and aligned with the practises of the most developed countries when it comes to the music business. SOKOJ used to charge 10 per cent of all organiser’s revenues for the use of copyrighted works, while today 1.5% is paid for the same. And OFPS (the Organisation of Phonogram Producers of Serbia) now seeks a realistic percentage in relation to previously applicable tariffs.

Generally speaking, when it comes to the protection of intellectual property rights I think Serbia has achieved a certain, relatively high level, but on the road to EU accession that level must be implemented consistently in practise. Intellectual property must, finally, be valued and its use must be paid for appropriately.

It is not as well known that you also compose music and have even released an album. Is music a hobby or an alternative profession?

– I compose music for film and that’s my great love. I have so far released one solo album, which sold out and I don’t have any copies left, so because of that I should perhaps record a new one. I sell my music abroad more, and I collaborate with famous musicians who have performed with groups like Stelly Dan, the Doobie Brothers and Mungo Jerry.

It is also known that you deal with humanitarian work, which is not the norm for a law office.

– I wouldn’t quite say that it is unusual for law firms to deal with humanitarian work. As far as I know, many law offices help their local communities in various ways. In particular, the LALIN & PARTNERS Law Office helps children and victims of domestic violence, and provides free legal assistance to those most in need. My friend Mungo Jerry will get involved in such a humanitarian event in Novi Sad in January and will perform a free concert for them. And, of course, I will play in his support band.