ABOWI’s Interview with Dorian Duda Polish lawyer and border crosser Dorian Duda on globalization, university choice as a success factor and advice to law students – „Across Borders With Information“ in a conversation with Polish lawyer and border crosser Dorian Duda
This week ABOWI travels virtually to Poland, Germany’s eastern neighbor known for hospitality and as a cultural center of Europe. Innovation and tradition create fertile ground for an economy that is thriving. Especially the Polish IT market enjoys worldwide recognition. Polish developers are among the best and many IT giants like IBM or Google are attracted by this potential to Poland’s picturesque green landscape. The virtual journey leads to Wroclaw with about 650,000 inhabitants, it is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland and was named Capital of Culture in 2016. The ABOWI project stands for „Across Borders with Information“ and aims to interview 197 exciting lawyers from 197 countries around the world. About the impact of globalization on the legal profession, experiences and advice to law students. A journey of enlightenment against prejudices and stereotypes that negatively shadow lawyers.
Dorian Duda is employed in the KPG Law Firm in Wrocław, Poland and has business fluent language skills in Polish, German, Spanish, English and Russian. An optimal prerequisite for crossing borders. What is particularly exciting is that he studied at the European University Viadrina (Frankfurt (Oder)). I, too, am completing my law degree at the Europa-Uni-Viadrina. The university is located right on the border with Poland and is known for its German-Polish and international orientation.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: Please introduce yourself briefly, what is your name, how old are you, where are you from and how long have you been practicing law?
My name is Dorian Duda, I am 29 years old, originally from Wroclaw, Poland. I have been a Polish lawyer (adwokat) only since October 2020, but you could say that I have been practicing the profession for 4 years already: because in Poland you choose the type of professional training already after your studies, i.e. you are already a member of the chosen bar association after your studies and generally work full time in a law office. My professional challenges on tasks have basically not changed from the beginning of the legal clerkship.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What made you decide to become a lawyer, or did your home country perhaps have something to do with it?
Dorian Duda: I have always found it fascinating about this legal profession that one can use legal reasoning in a variety of ways, depending on how best to protect the interests of our clients. My home country didn’t make me choose this profession; it was actually Germany and the way I was taught to work at a German university.
After all, it is made clear to students from the very first semester that it is perfectly okay if there is not a single correct answer to a question. What really matters is the quality of the argumentation. This is very significant in this profession. Also, in my opinion, lawyers are fundamentally highly trusted as advisors because they help make correct decisions. I willingly take on this responsibility and am very satisfied when I can help my clients develop their business ideas or solve problems.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What is your legal focus?
Dorian Duda: I prefer to advise in the areas of commercial and corporate law, contract law, data protection, and compliance. I find cross-border issues the most exciting and it gives me great pleasure when I can advise my international clients, who may feel a bit confused in Poland, so that they can make their business decisions with confidence and a good feeling.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: How is the social recognition of a legal career in Poland? (For example, in Germany, social recognition is quite high, especially among people who have no contact with lawyers. There is certainly a stereotype of the superior and rich lawyer).
Dorian Duda: Yes, to some extent there is this stereotype in Poland as well. I think it is similar to other European countries. There are also perceptions that lawyers, due to their knowledge of legal loopholes and good expressive skills themselves do not have legal problems! Or that every lawyer specializes in all fields and has a prepared answer to all questions. But that already changes with time, and I think you can’t generalize that there is a stereotype.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What challenges do you face every day as a lawyer?
Dorian Duda: First and foremost, the challenge of constantly having to learn every day. Especially when working with foreign clients, there are often issues where you are confronted with different legal concepts from many countries. It is exciting to implement a concept known to the client but unknown to the domestic legal system.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: You are a local lawyer, but at the same time you live in a globalized world. How do you work with lawyers and clients outside the country?
Dorian Duda: I must admit that this is relatively easy for me, and with the pandemic it has become even easier. We use a lot of technical solutions that allow us to provide legal services effectively even in the context of remote work. It is remarkable how much can be accomplished with the use of email, calendaring, and telephone or video conferencing. Meanwhile, the circulation of documents with qualified electronic signatures has also improved, to this extent it is sometimes unnecessary to send or receive traditional correspondence. Of course, there is the technical dimension; there is also the personal aspect. It helps that I can talk to many foreign clients and lawyers in their native languages. As far as Germany is concerned, my knowledge of the legal system and the way it works helps me. It is very important for me to create the feeling in the client that I really understand his problems and not just translate, but also perceive the cultural aspects.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: How international are the lawyers in your country in terms of language?
Dorian Duda: At larger law firms, it is actually common for legal advice to be offered at least in English. As far as actual language skills are concerned – they vary and it often happens that the language aspect of prepared documents or correspondence is not of the highest standard. It is easy to state on the website or in the CV that one has mastered a language „business fluently“. It is much more complicated to meet these requirements in reality. That’s why it’s important to have an introductory conversation with the lawyer, to get to know each other a bit.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: In your experience, how high is the demand for international cases and clients?
Dorian Duda: International cases and clients are, in my opinion, very much in demand. They are mostly clients with a high business culture, often with issues that can develop and enrich a lawyer’s experience in a significant way. For me, it is critical, and for these two reasons, it gives me the greatest pleasure to work with international clients. However, working on international and cross-border cases requires a certain amount of self-awareness on the part of the lawyer. And it is also sometimes necessary to be able to look at a case from different perspectives – not just those that are common under local law. You have to learn to think differently than your „domestic“ colleagues.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What kind of legal advice is particularly sought after by your international clients?
Dorian Duda: Most of my clients are Polish companies with foreign management or shareholders. They expect complex advice on running a business in Poland: setting up the company, drafting internal company documents, advice on contracts, tax advice, representation before authorities and courts, hiring employees, for example. Frankly speaking, for these clients it is not so much about my admission to the bar; they appreciate my ability to advise accurately, to analyze, to communicate clearly. They don’t want to hear legal phrases and references to laws. They expect concrete advice including risk assessment, sometimes after a really exciting brainstorming with the use of new technologies. In the end, they want to be able to make good or conscious decisions.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: How do you assess the global market in the future, in Germany you will have to specialize in a certain area of law at some point during your studies, do you think specializing in international law makes sense?
Dorian Duda: What I particularly appreciate about German legal training is the opportunity to experience different perspectives at various stations in many authorities during the legal clerkship. In Poland, we don’t have this opportunity. For example, there are no „specialist lawyers“ in Poland in the German sense; I would welcome the introduction of such a designation in my home country. I also think that specialization only makes sense after a certain point – you first have to try out what you actually enjoy or are interested in.
As for specializing in international law, I find it a bit tricky. First, you have to distinguish between private and public law – I myself majored in international law, and I continue to find the subject matter very exciting, but it is unfortunately not very relevant to my current legal profession. It is, however, much more applicable to people who would like to work in an international organization or embassy. In my profession, private international law comes up more often in practice, but it is merely an area of law that only complements the other, „traditional“ areas such as the law of obligations. International law is like a foreign language or other soft skills – it’s a tool, and knowledge of it is very important, but without good skills in other areas of law, you won’t get anywhere in the legal profession with international law alone.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: From your experience in your professional life, how meaningful is the decision to pursue a career in law? Would you choose it again?
Dorian Duda: Yes, definitely I would choose it again. It depends on personal skills and character – I really enjoy the combination of procedures, logical thinking and solving problems. There are many opportunities even within the legal profession – some like to work with clients and negotiate contracts or attend meetings, while others prefer to write comprehensive opinions or due diligence without contact with clients. There are litigators who like to appear in court, and also those who prefer to settle disputes through business channels. Some lawyers prefer to work with individual clients, and like to deal with personal, sensitive issues, while others prefer to discuss business issues. Opportunities do exist.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What advice would you give to law students or prospective students?
Dorian Duda: Try and try a lot! Go to one law firm and another, see how they work. Try out large law firms, public authorities, smaller law firms. Exchange ideas with older colleagues, ask lots of questions. Law school opens up many paths, not just to a law firm. Be curious. Don’t be afraid to learn something from the beginning. This is just the time to do it.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: What influence did the choice of the European University Viadrina have on your career? And how important do you consider the choice of a renowned university?
Dorian Duda: This was one of the most significant decisions in my life. I am very grateful to the European University Viadrina and the people with whom our paths crossed there. The university had an enormously strong influence on many of my decisions: not only on the professional, but also on the private level. It helped me discover my strengths and weaknesses. At every step there, I was supported by great people: Faculty, fellow students, administrative specialists. It was both about institutional support, such as scholarships and student advising, but more about the human dimension: positive attitude and good conversations with people who worked or taught there. The atmosphere at the European University Viadrina was simply not to be underestimated and it allowed me to focus on my studies and enjoy this time.
I don’t think it matters whether the university is renowned or not. For example, I would find it difficult to say whether Viadrina should be considered „prestigious“ or not. The value of the university is people who work there and who influence and move the decisions of the students. You can find them at a small university as well as at a large one. If, in later professional life, the employer only asks about the reputation of the university and not about the qualifications you have acquired there, then it would not be an employer I would like to work for.
Josefine Antonia Schulte: In your view, what needs to be done to bring lawyers from all over the world together, or is this process not necessary?
Dorian Duda: I think networking between lawyers from all over the world is very important! There are organizations such as CCBE that deal with this. But there is still a lot to be done, and I think local bar associations should care about it a bit more!
Many thanks to my interviewee Dorian Duda for taking the time and providing exciting answers to my questions. Dorian Duda’s open view of law school as a school of thought that opens many doors is particularly impressive. Due to the fact that Dorian Duda’s studies were not very long ago, his perspective on law school is current and valuable. I also think that it is very important for prospective law students to base their choice of university on factors other than external reputation. I also feel very comfortable at the Europa-Universität-Viadrina. The advantages outweigh the manageable size of the university, which leaves room for personal contact I can fully confirm. „Detach yourself from your fears, be curious, ask questions and try things out, get out of your comfort zone“, I believe that is advice that is not limited to law students, but applies in everyday life many times. How to find your way if you don’t give yourself room for possibility? The pandemic has given a jolt for a triggered digitalization in the world of law, which is essential for global cooperation and greatly increases the effectiveness of international cooperation and legal assistance.
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Across Borders With Information – ABOWI, an interview series by Josefine Schulte Law student from Berlin in Germany. Questions and Answers: A journey around the world revealing differences and prejudices. What moves the lawyers of this earth, Josefine Schulte asks itself from Azerbaijan to Cyprus through.
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