WBJ sat down with Kinga Hanna Stachowiak, Partner and Managing Director in Skarbiec Law Firm, President of the Management Board in several companies in the real estate industry.
What problems do entrepreneurs want to be solved by the law firm most often?
Kinga Stachowiak: At Skarbiec Group, we mainly deal with strategic consulting, crisis management and protection of entrepreneurs against future creditors, which are the core of our legal activity. We also provide ongoing legal and tax consultancy, as well as help entrepreneurs in establishing companies in foreign jurisdictions around the world. Entrepreneurs often complain about various obstacles they encounter when doing business in Poland. It concerns both legal barriers and unfavorable attitude of tax authorities.
There is a lot of talk about the fact that government offices are becoming more friendly to companies… Is this hostility not becoming more and more incidental?
Kinga Stachowiak: We have quite the opposite observations. The scale of this phenomenon has been growing for several years. Some new regulations and the simultaneous tightening of fiscal policy are unfortunately affecting companies that conduct completely lawful activities. Budget revenues from VAT often increase at the expense of reliable entrepreneurs.
How can these bad practices be countered? Is this where the escape to foreign tax havens comes from?
Kinga Stachowiak: I wouldn’t call it an escape, but entrepreneurs are certainly looking for friendly tax systems or places offering legal stability and flexibility. Such place in the world is Malta, which has become the most popular destination due to the ease of obtaining a tax residence.
The law firm is also a specific company or entity. How does it currently function in Polish conditions?
Kinga Stachowiak: In recent years there have been a lot of updates in the regulations, or completely new regulations, and actually there are probably few lawyers who embrace all these changes. This forces increasing specialization and this trend of new niche branches of law is becoming stronger. As a law firm that has to offer holistic services to clients, we are also moving in this direction. We employ many experts and cooperate with many other ones from abroad. Certainly, running a consulting company becomes more complicated, the more that compliance with regulations requires a lot of administrative activities and knowledge of many multiple areas. Our clients also often ask us if we are able to help them of doing business of issued aspect to them. There are more and more such queries due to changes in regulations. They simply want to focus on managing their own business – not on the bureaucracy. Outsourcing of this type has become very fashionable in recent years, and we are part of this trend.
Is managing a law firm with representative offices in other countries a challenge?
Kinga Stachowiak: Actually, it looks like we have partners all over the world. These are law firms, accounting and auditing companies. There is also a branch of the Skarbiec in Malta. From my point of view, it is above all a very interesting experience, which undoubtedly is being in a multicultural environment of professionals. At the same time, it is not only about copying foreign patterns, all the more so because labor standards in Poland are definitely higher than those in Mediterranean countries. Poles are great at international contacts and they are very open minded to differences – even if some say they aren’t. We have a good reputation in these circles, because we are representatives of a country that is developing dynamically. I believe that we build our success through hard work.
Does this mean that there is currently no problem with employing lawyers in the country?
Kinga Stachowiak: At the moment, lawyers with well-developed so-called “soft” competences and sales skills who easily find a common language with business are most needed. It is often about people who are advisors of management bodies in companies. There are certainly not many such lawyers and there will be a demand for them. It is similar with tax or accounting advisors.
And what is the number of business clients at the moment?
Kinga Stachowiak: We are an office that probably has the largest inflow of business clients within the law firms in Poland. Within a month we receive 100-200 queries from potential customers. We mainly serve enterprises with Polish capital and wealthy private individuals. The scale of inquiries is related to the marketing model that we adopted from the very beginning of our business.
Well, how did it start?
Kinga Stachowiak: We have been around for 12 years. We come from the website Skarbiec.biz, which from the beginning gave us high recognition. We are also still present on the Internet and in the printed press. I remember that at the beginning me and my partner (attorney Robert Nogacki – editor) were surprised how many people are looking for legal advice on the Internet. The subsequent organic development of the law office went towards servicing legal entities. That is why we are present in social media, we have profiles on relevant websites, but we do not gain new customers with them. Anyway, it would be peculiar, because the heads of companies seeking strategic consulting will not contact the law firm via Facebook or Instagram.
However, are any new trends related to the management and organization of law firms appearing or is it rather a conservative activity?
Kinga Stachowiak: We are constantly moving in the area of credibility. So – how to be a credible leader? How to make people want to work for us? The methods change, of course, but authentic and trustworthy leaders win at the end of a day. My experience in this field is specific because I usually manage people much older than me with a lot of knowledge in theirs areas of the specialization. I focus on passion in action and celebrating common successes – it gives me the feeling that more can be done.
And don’t women managers have a harder time in the legal industry than men? Is there the famous “glass ceiling” here?
Kinga Stachowiak: I created the company from scratch, so if it exists, I avoided it somehow. However, I think it’s easy to find many women who refute similar myths. With their hard work, they gain really high positions and achieve success, effectively combining professional activity with family life and raising children. There are no rules here, but instead of complaining it is always better to take matters into your own hands. The road to the top can be just as exciting as its achievement. It is worth remembering that such a career must be full of failures along the way, sometimes very severe, but they are an indispensable factor.
And all this is about the law industry?
Kinga Stachowiak: Not exclusively. I have also been managing real estate companies for 11 years, running highly complex projects. Sometimes legal problems are combined with technical issues here. In addition, sitting in the chair of the president of these companies I am responsible for the construction of facilities. That is, at all stages – starting from the selection of a given property, through obtaining specific permits, and ending with the selection of the contractor for the investment and its subsequent acceptance. Very often it comes to real estate with various legal defects, with markings that should be demolished etc. I started with investment in land, but over time I focused on the implementation of commercial projects. I focus primarily on small and high-quality boutique investments.