Ernest Virgil Popovici founded Popovici & Asociații in 1995, as soon as the law on legal profession permitted incorporation of professional partnerships.
Toward the end of 2002, Florian Nițu joined the Firm as Managing Partner. Five years later he is promoted to name partner and the Firm changes its name into Popovici Nițu & Asociații. While in 1995 Popovici & Asociații numbered 2 partners and 7 associates, in 2007 it grew to 6 partners and 40 associates.
In 2010, PNSA Tax is launched as an autonomous legal tax advisory business, by a joint venture with former Big Four senior tax managers. Since 2012, the International Arbitration Practice Group is also set up distinctively and together with the Litigation Practice form nowadays one of the largest dispute resolution teams in the country.
In October 2015, Popovici Nițu & Asociații became Popovici Nițu Stoica & Asociații by promoting Corporate M&A lawyer Bogdan C. Stoica to name partner. Bogdan is also serving as deputy managing partner.
At its 20th anniversary, Popovici Nițu Stoica & Asociații groups more than 80 lawyers and counsels, largely acknowledged as top-notch commercial law experts, by clients and peers.
Interview with Mr. Ernest Virgil Popovici, Senior Partner, Popovici Niţu Stoica & Asociaţii
These days Popovici Nițu Stoica & Asociații celebrates its 20th anniversary. In a nutshell, what would the two decades stand for?
Popovici Nițu Stoica & Asociații assisted within at least 150 major projects, amounting to well above 15 billion Euro of aggregate investment value, either greenfield or M&A, public to private or dispute resolution assignments. We have been also involved in a significant number of regulatory and institution building projects.
But above all, Popovici Nițu Stoica & Asociații stands as a team of true professionals, sharing solid values, such as top-notch expertise and loyalty to clients’ cause, innovation and commercial awareness. A team of 80-plus lawyers, with many of them having built their whole career in the Firm.
What is the secret for getting to the forefront of the market?
This is fully the team’s offspring. In a legal practice nothing works sustainably without a reliable team, a proper organization ethos and hard work. And again, durable commitment, for all of us, partners, associates, support staff, everyone, with no exception. Mobility at work is also a must. And there is a lot. Having seen the other day the business travel schedule of my colleagues I have noticed that all European capitals were there, from Paris to London, from Vienna to Frankfurt, Geneva and Brussels. And this is natural, business is going global. Personally also, I have pursued my French adopted nationality, the French community, and although I spend a lot of time in my Bucharest office, I do work a lot abroad.
How much have the commercial law and legal assistance service changed in the past 20 years?
Immensely. By all standards. First, it is the IT that has changed the structure of the service and this is, well, still an ongoing process. My lawyer briefcase with files and statues is now a laptop bag; I am changing smartphones constantly as new software is always needed. Basically, business went global in these 20 years and so the legal profession. And we are constantly adapting to it and I hope that we will always stay at the forefront.
Turning to the legal services market in Romania, how does it look like today and which are its development trends?
I clearly see a consolidation process with maybe 7-8 law firms, asserted as the big firms or the top tier, handling the major projects. But there is a lot of movement in the second tier market, where one may see many new players, numerous mergers and take-overs, partnerships, etc. And finally, there is already a market for the niche firms, specialized one-sector or one-industry boutiques that run notable assignments.
What about the economy and the potential for growth of the legal service? Which sectors you see contributing mostly?
Foreign direct investment, definitely. We have now conditions set for a major revival of investment interest for Romania. Strategically, institutionally, commercially, and legally. We will thus see soon major projects in Infrastructure, Agribusiness, Real Estate, IT & Telecommunications, and yet in the Energy field.
Additionally, a new M&A wave is at the horizon, workouts and sales of NPL portfolios will complete and fresh capital will be infused in the economy. As a local independent firm, we will also pay particular attention to the Dispute Resolution and International Arbitration Practices.
How do you see the Firm going forward? How do you see the legal profession’s future?
We, as PNSA, will stick with the values and principles we embraced at the outset, 20 years back. We are a local, independent law firm. We see the team as our essential motor for development and growth. We believe in proper and competent, state of the art legal expertise and we seek to strike a good balance between people’s and the firm’s agendas.
As to the legal profession’s future, I would say that we are witnessing epochal changes, not only locally, but globally, which would probably yield structural modifications. There is an inherent fragmentation here; we will see soon new bodies of practices claiming autonomy, not only barristers and solicitors, but also arbitration, competition/antitrust, legal tax lawyers, etc.
A message for your younger colleagues?
I think it is their time for better engagement with the profession and civil society in general. Younger lawyers should get more active, voice their concern and act in the public arena. We need their new spirit, novel attitudes, knowledge acquired in times of open society and free markets, throughout these 20 years we are speaking about.