The fourth annual “New Law Graduate Seminar” was held at the Corinthia Hotel in Budapest, on Tuesday 5 April 2011. The event, which is run annually by Hudson Legal, in conjunction with White & Case and Wolf Theiss, was a great success. The aim of these seminars is to provide practical guidance on how new graduates can best achieve their personal career goals, and in so doing, become meaningful contributors in the legal field, whether in private practice or in-house.

Admittedly the aim of the event does sound somewhat idealistic, and anyone who has spent time as a trainee lawyer will know that there is no magical “jump-starter” to a legal career, other than working very hard, being dedicated and making many personal sacrifices in the pursuit of becoming an effective lawyer. Péter Bogdánffy, Deputy CEO at Brokernet Zrt, previously General Counsel and Member of the Managing Board Hungary at Siemens Zrt, summed it up eloquently: “No pain, no gain.” The advice to new law graduates was not all doom and gloom however, and although the challenging aspects and stereotypical perceptions of working in an international top-tier firm were mentioned, the practical advice relayed to the new law graduates in attendance was thought provoking, useful and most importantly encouraging.

Zoltán Faludi, managing partner of the Budapest office of Wolf Theiss, and head of the firm’s Energy/Utilities Practice Group, gave the attendees some insight into what working in a diverse and interesting legal environment is like. The firm’s thinking is based on creative client solutions where passionate, knowledgeable and talented individuals will thrive. Zoltán briefly explained the firm’s training process: training of new lawyers being a common thread which ran through the seminar.

The emphasis on training highlighted how legal skills are gained and improved by utilizing the theoretical knowledge from students’ studies as a platform, and building on this foundation by having graduates attend training sessions offered by firms in conjunction with working on cross-border deals with exceptional lawyers on a day to day basis. István Réczicza, Executive Partner of the Budapest office of White & Case, and head of the fim’s CEE Regulatory and Disputes Practice Group, touched on the seminars held by White & Case as a means to escalating lawyers’ levels of knowledge, and continuously keeping current with new legislation across all practice areas. The White & Case Academy holds monthly seminars and young lawyers are often sent to inter alia Paris, Brussels and London to work with specialists in different legal fields. Gergő Budai, Head of Legal at Pfizer Hungary Kft., (previously an attorney at White & Case, who started there as a student), also raised the point that training and experience are key. Working with people globally is not only interesting, but helps an individual become more aware of various fields of law, which in turn often helps inspire creative thought processing when finding solutions for clients.

Réczicza spoke personally about the fascinating aspects of dealing with, and in turn learning from, colleagues and clients. Time spent with clients working on various transactions is not only interesting, but helps develop commercially-aware and business-minded lawyers, who pay attention to detail. Bogdánffy echoed Réczicza’s sentiments when stating that lawyers should aim to be “businessmen with legal backgrounds”. He went on to explain that client-focused lawyers put themselves in a client’s shoes, think about the particular legal issue at hand, and conceptualize ways to approach a matter, while bearing in mind commercial goals and what lies behind a transaction. Thinking in this way is a skill which can be learned by listening to a client’s needs and asking as many questions as possible to gain an understanding of the deal/transaction being worked on.

Bogdánffy stressed the importance of being dedicated and stated that modesty is key when entering the legal profession. He closed the program succinctly by reminding graduates to “just do it, think bigger, put yourself in the client’s shoes”, and reminded all present that “nothing is impossible.”

Whether the young graduates who attended this seminar will go on to work in-house, or in private practice in the future, it is assured that the guidance and tips shared at this event, will certainly assist them to be more aware of what, not only is to be expected in the legal profession, but also how to negotiate the inevitable challenges that await them.

We would like to thank our partners, Wolf Theiss and White & Case who participated in organizing this event and also to Top Legal, Jogi Fórum and Complex Wolters Kluwer for their support in promoting the seminar.

Liesel Vasseva
Senior Consultant Hudson Legal
Emerging Europe