Aleksić & Associates is certainly a well-known law office. We spoke with solicitor Ivana Maraš about the services that Aleksić & Associates provides to its business clients.
What do you see as the advantages of your law office?
– Aleksić & Associates is one of the fastest-growing law firms in Serbia. Unlike the majority of our competitors, which are primarily based in Belgrade, we are headquartered in Novi Sad, the capital of Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina, the richest and the most active region in Serbia in terms of direct foreign investment. Our clients range from financial institutions, commercial banks and insurance companies, to major corporate and institutional clients.
Although we launched our operations over 25 years ago, as a civil law firm, the rising interest of investors in this region over the last 20 years has compelled us to focus entirely on corporate law and banking, as our main area of practise. We have since built a business comprising over 197 legal and economic professionals that provide 24/7 services to clients operating in Southeast Europe (SEE). We have built this capacity with the idea of being able to instantly accommodate our clients’ needs.
We are dedicated to training and educating our experts and have developed a special mentoring programme, as we believe that makes the crucial difference for our clients.
When it comes to consulting services, what causes the most confusion among foreign investors?
– Foreign investors have the most dilemmas in areas relating to public-private partnership and concessions, investments in energy and infrastructure facilities, the process of establishing and managing companies, corporate mergers and acquisitions, followed by the privatisation of large state-owned enterprises, tax law and customs, also including the optimisation of tax liabilities and reduction of tax risks etc.
In your opinion, why do international businesses choose to invest in our country and which practises do you see growing in the next 12 months?
– Many international businesses are choosing Serbia, and Vojvodina in particular, as their investment destination because of recent positive signals in terms of political stability and improvement in the economic environment. In recent years we’ve seen major state and foreign investments in the infrastructure and energy sectors in Serbia and SEE. The Government of Serbia has also placed an emphasis on the digital transformation process, as one of its major strategic economic development goals over the next several years, therefore we expect to see more investors coming from the IT sector. Large interest among Chinese, Japanese, UAE, Turkish and other investors has also created various investment trends that we try to accommodate through our services, ranging from manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and financial services, to agriculture and the hospitality business.
The Serbian banking sector is currently undergoing consolidation, which means that we have seen some major merger and acquisition activity in the last year. In that regard, we see more inquiries coming into our banking & finance practise (due diligence investigations, NPL transactions etc.), which was – apart from our dispute resolution practise – among our most active areas of practise over last 12 months.
What are the advantages of domestic law firms in representing foreign companies, compared to international law firms that also operate here?
– Foreign lawyers, or “international law firms”, are able to operate in Serbia in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the domestic Law on Advocacy, after having previously been entered in the registry of attorneys. A foreign solicitor of a foreign citizen, enrolled in register A of the registry of attorneys, is limited to providing verbal and written legal advice and opinions that relate to the application of the laws of his country of origin and international law.
A foreign solicitor of a foreign citizen registered in register B of the registry of attorneys is equal to the service of a domestic lawyer, though in the three-year period from the date of registration they can only operate in the Republic of Serbia with a domestic lawyer. In addition to these noted administrative constraints, an additional major advantage of domestic law firms in representing foreign companies is reflected in their better familiarisation with the regulations of the Republic of Serbia, particularly the practise of domestic courts and other state bodies, with considerably lower costs of representation.
Our legal teams are able to effectively implement the process of collecting large corporate debtors’ claims in complicated bankruptcies and in reorganisation and restructuring procedures
What Aleksić & Associates offers clients and how have you helped clients specifically?
– We offer our clients comprehensive legal services in all phases of their business endeavours. For the past several years we’ve been involved in a number of NPL deals, which have required a complex approach to this type of transaction, especially in terms of collection and enforcement procedures, which remains one of the main challenges for investors in the Serbian NPL market.
The very procedure of collecting claims, as well as the enforcement procedure, and especially the bankruptcy procedure, are extremely specific and complex in Serbia, and we have built our internal capacities and reputation on that fact that we can serve our clients efficiently in that regard. This is reflected in successful collections of receivables for banks and other corporate clients.
Our legal teams are able to effectively implement the process of collecting large corporate debtors’ claims in complicated bankruptcies and in reorganisation and restructuring procedures.
What do you think is the most important factor for clients; and where do you see the firm in the future?
– Business savvy advice is mandatory in contemporary legal practice. You have to truly understand your clients’ industry and business direction in order to give them good quality advice. Our approach is preventative and proactive, which certainly gives our clients a sense of stability. This means that we try to anticipate their legal risks and choose the most efficient legal path to our clients achieving their desired business goals.
As a firm in a transition country that’s preparing for EU membership, we are conscious of what this change would mean, both in terms of the economic environment and the legal profession. We are therefore building up our internal capacities, both in terms of requests that we expect to see from clients and new standards that European law firms will bring upon entering this market once Serbia becomes a member state.