Breakfast is stunning: cereal, yoghurt, juices, tea and coffee, hard boiled eggs, six kinds of bread, four kinds of cheese, honey, jam, butter… the list goes on and on.
Martin Fučík comes to collect me and my hotel, it transpires, is literally on the doorstep of Havel & Holásek
The firm resides in a beautiful 15th century former customs house, over three floors. It is very light and full of plants, and has a balcony with bay trees and tables and chairs which smells delicious. The building has many amazing original features, including massive wooden stairs and parquet floors. It is something of a maze, though compared to Adelaide House it’s fairly easy to master.
I am to share an office with Katka (short for Katerina) in HR, with a window that opens over the square smelling of spices from the Dr Stuart
’s emporium below. A pack of office supplies – biros, highlighters, pink and yellow Post-Its – has kindly been put together for me.
Luckily for me “hello” in Czech is “dobry dyin”, which is near enough to the little Russian I remember that I can say it reasonably confidently. I am taken round to be introduced to everyone in the office (except for a few of the partners, who not unlike English partners appear to spend large chunks of time out of the office). My Czech doesn’t quite stretch to, “Lovely to meet you!” but I shake lots of hands and do much nodding and smiling. Everyone welcomes me enthusiastically.
The HH office feels friendly and casual, with some people even wearing jeans (though Katka who introduces round both me and the work experience student who is starting today says they didn’t oughtta) and hardly anyone in suits except for partners. (There are three people on the office management side called Katerina, all of whom as an aide memoire
are called Katka for short, about four called Jan, two Barboras, a handful of Josefs – it's a bit like the Monty Python sketch about the philosophy professors who want to call the new guy “Bruce” to avoid confusion.)
The big differences are that largely people sit together by position – partners seem mostly to sit alone, associates (“advocáti”) mainly share with other associates and trainees (“koncipienti”) share with trainees, or occasionally with an associate – and that doors are closed more often here. The doors are wooden with no windows, and the glass walls have silver venetian blinds behind them, so you see fewer faces when you wander down the hall. But the atmosphere is similarly casual and friendly to that at BLP so I feel right at home.
Petr Skalský (who shares an office with my "buddy", Martin) asks me to review an Agreement for Cooperation between an SPV and the Czech equivalent of a local authority (in English, needless to say), just for sense and English usage, which I do.
Czech legal documents, it seems, are divided into two types: named, largely standardised forms called nominate contracts (leases, or sale and purchase contracts, for instance) and contracts which do not fall under any of these named categories, called “unnamed” or innominate contracts. This is the latter.
Section 269(2) Act No. 513/1991 Sb, the Commercial Code, permits parties to conclude a contract that is an innominate commercial contract and section 50(a) (I think) of the civil code is the basis for innominate civil law contracts.
Apparently in Prague one eats lunch at 11.30. This afternoon I am going to help out with finance templates, which should be fun.Later
Back in the office around 13.00. Partner Josef Hlavička and koncipientka (trainee) Michaela Riedlová, who both coincidentally come from Moravia, take me to lunch at a place with high ceilings and a largely Italian menu. I share an enormous green salad with Michaela, who worked as an au pair in London, and then I have an even more ginormous black risotto (with squid in its own ink) all to myself. Mmmm. We are all too stuffed to eat dessert.
I hear more about the differences between the Czech and English legal systems. In order to transact any sort of business in the Czech Republic you have to be registered, usually as an entrepreneur. Business agreements are regulated in some cases by the civil and in others by the commercial code here, and sometimes by both, and it seems to depend on a) the type of document (lease, SPA, etc) and also b) the nature of the parties to the document as to which.
This can lead to difficulties because, for example, a document that is regulated by the civil code such as a lease or other property transactional document may be part of a larger transaction where other documents are regulated by the commercial code. The two codes have different limitation periods, among other things.
Czech legal training is longer and tougher than ours, perhaps not so surprising when you realise that a Czech lawyer is an “advocate”, both solicitor and barrister. They have five years of study, three years of work experience and then five written and five oral exams at the end of their training after which they are admitted to the bar. The oral exams sound particularly gruelling as koncipienti
are examined by a panel made up of lawyers, academics and judges and are marked not only on their level of accuracy but also on their persuasiveness.Even later
Another person I have chatted to today is Gabriela Doudová, who is the Provozní Manažer at Havel & Holásek. This sounds very exciting and elegant but I am not certain exactly what she does. Will investigate further. Ah, yes, Google translates this as “Operating Manager”. “Provozní Manažer” sounds SOOO much better, doesn’t it? More enigmatic and intriguing. Like something you need a neoprene balaclava and some carabiners to do, rather than a phone and a PC.Still later
Have a meeting with Jan Topinka (advocát) and Ivo Průša (koncipient) on developing some standard forms with them, including loan and priority documents and checklists to use with these. Will be interesting to look at documents from a borrower’s, rather than a lender’s, perspective.