Christos Ioannides is a founding partner of LLPO Law Firm in Nicosia, Cyprus, and a member of the ILN. In this episode, Lindsay and Christos consider what it means to manage a law firm, the challenges of adapting to change, and what is essential for the practice of law.
You can listen to the podcast here, or we’ve provided a transcript of the highlights below.
Lindsay: Hello and welcome to the Law Firm Intelligence Podcast. I’m your host Lindsay Griffiths, Executive Director of the International Lawyers Network. And my guest this week is Christos Ioannides from our firm in Cyprus, LLPO law firm. Christos, welcome. We’re so glad you could join us this week. How are you?
Christos: Hello, Lindsay. Quite good. Thank you very much for the invitation. I was expecting this. I tried to reschedule a number of times, we managed to do it.
Lindsay: We did. We did. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your practice and your law firm?
Christos: So we are a medium-sized law firm based in Cyprus. We were established in 1999. We have always had on a sustainability basis model a client-centric approach focusing on sectorial expertise of our lawyers and the utilization of innovative technology. Those were the three core principles around building up our law firm. We are currently providing services in all major areas of law. However, we are more focused on banking and financial services, litigation and dispute resolution, corporate, including corporate administration, and corporate them in days. And we do have some other sectorial experience in the university sector, gaming, and luxuries, we also do some insolvency bankruptcies. So this is overall a very brief overview of our firm. We are four partners at the moment and have something like 20 something lawyers.
Lindsay: And how about your practice?
Christos: mostly do corporate and commercial litigation. Okay, you have to remember that Cyprus is not that big jurisdiction, it’s a small jurisdiction or so we developed our practice back in the days, basically trying to do as many things as possible, get as much experience as possible, but I ended up doing commercial and corporate litigation with some criminal law procedures as well. Apart from litigations, I also do some corporate advisory, I’m in base, this is basically where I currently stand.
Lindsay: That’s great. And so what would you say is your biggest challenge at the moment?
Christos: The biggest challenge at the moment. Okay, so currently basically we are managing the firm, two partners of the firm are managing the firm. So managing the firm is the biggest challenge right now. It’s law, it’s not a regulation that keeps changing, regulations in our fields of practice are more than ever. But I think that managing people and managing the firm is the biggest challenge. We always sort of our firm is having a teamwork rewarding policy. So that steadily led to all participant stakeholders, partners, and associates developing a sense of community. So that sense of community requires constant attention. And this I’m talking about attention to concepts like respect, tolerance, accommodation, diversification, these are concepts that you need to keep them constantly, you have to have them constantly in mind and be facilitating with people and try to have this commonness in how people see the rest of the people around them and in the affirm and the community. So yeah, managing the firm, it’s exhaustive, it’s rewarding, but it’s exhaustive.
Lindsay: That is a big challenge, so how is that something that you work at trying to keep that sense of community and keep those principles in mind as you also manage your practice?
Christos: Okay, so you certainly need to have attention to detail. You have to be open-minded and ready to listen to everyone. You have to be fair to everybody, and you certainly need to provide a certain and uniform direction for everybody to follow. But apart from this, I think that the golden thread here is that you have to take one thing at a time, do that, then move to the next, otherwise it’s just the notion of matters that you need to resolve, and it’s what I said, you cannot surface out of them.
Lindsay: Yeah. So what has been the biggest surprise for you in the last few months then and why?
Christos: First of all, I’m surprised about our membership in ILN, because to be honest, we wanted to be part of a global community and I’m overwhelmed by the number of webinars and seminars and everything. So honestly, I’m so overwhelmed, sometimes I feel like I can’t follow all that. Thank God people in our firm are following it and then keeping me updated. No, honestly, I think that what appears to be a great surprise, which is an unfortunate surprise, it’s the daily level of misinformation that we receive via the media, that’s a huge surprise for me. Not the misinformation per se, but the readiness of people to accept and side with information that tends to elevate a confrontational approach towards everything. This is my greatest surprise nowadays, and for quite a long now, but I keep surprising by how ready people are ready to side, to take sides and confront.
If someone will think that humility, respect, and tolerance would be the lessons that we should have received from the previous century, it appears that this is not the case on a daily basis. Yeah, this applies to important discussions, it’s all over the place and social media, basically magnifies this disappointment. So my biggest surprise is the disappointment.
Lindsay: You’re not wrong, you’re not wrong. That’s true. So, yeah, I think that’s an important point and a good lesson for a lot of people, so not unrelated to that. What’s the biggest area related to your practice or the legal industry that you’re curious about, and why is that?
Christos: Yeah, so it’s not unrelated actually because it has to do with the technology era that we are living. I don’t know how that would sound, I believe that the biggest area we are curious about right now is the development of smart contracts and the story and the friends, the hype around it. I’m quite fascinated about them, and I’m curious to see where this would lead us or leave us. As a firm we are determined, we are already engaging professionally in the area trying to advise and connect people around it, but we only speculate on where this will go to what lengths and what is going to be the aftermath. I was always a tech guy, a geek around tech. So yeah, I foresee that smart contracts will be the technological leap also in the legal profession, but I’m still curious to see how long it will take and where do we go from there. So, yeah, I’m curious about it. It’s a whole new area that I’m fascinated with and I’m willing to review it in the next few months.
Lindsay: Yeah, the thing that strikes me about a lot of the technological advances that I’ve seen in the legal profession recently is that obviously they’re exciting and I think they speak a lot to the efficiency of the profession and the cost-cutting for clients, which is great and really wonderful. But like a lot of people wonder about the impact on younger lawyers because I think there’s always, I never worry about where the profession of lawyers is going because I think there’s always going to be a need for legal counsel, trusted advisors who can advise on what your business needs to do and those types of things. But I wonder, especially now that the rise of remote working and that type of thing, how are we going to look to train our younger lawyers and the way that obviously you were brought up and in learning the law and how that’s going to look different for your younger lawyers. So I’m wondering how have you maybe changed the way that you interact with some of your associates and what you see the impact on that going forward.
Christos: It’s first of all, this was one of the hot topics we had on our basically AGM of my firm. We spend most of the time, basically trying to assess the change in the profession, how the profession is changing, and exactly try to visualize what the profession’s going to be in the next five years, 10 years, and so on. Yeah, the lawyer will be needed as I understand for years to come, what he’ll be needed to be doing more or less is going to be involved in resolving disputes or resolving aspects of advising as to how corporations or private individuals can enter into a mutually beneficial relationship.
However, yeah, it’s changing, especially the pandemic was a catalyst. Basically, even people who wouldn’t believe it basically were forced to accept, that you don’t need to be seating in a city office and waiting there to see clients, and no, it’s happening over the platforms now. So now how will new lawyers be brought up unavoidably for me as I remember it, it wasn’t anything else than who you had as a mentor, as a senior when you were a junior. Okay, because you would take a direction out of him. You would get instruction as far as your senior is personal that is willing to train you to put you on a path for you to develop, then I believe that this can still be done over technological means, through platforms, through a daily assessment, not assessment, a daily meeting over a Zoom or whatever, I’m constantly talking with my people over groups and Zoom, et cetera.
So I believe that adaptation is going to be the easy part. I believe that the difficult part is for us to accept that we are moving forward, times are changing and we need to proceed. We need to find ways to accommodate the best provision of our services.
Lindsay: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. And you mentioned mentorship before, and I think that’s really important too, not just your seniors, but who are your mentors, and who has been the biggest mentor in your career?
Christos: There have been people, many people who have helped in my career in many ways. This is either because of their positive behavior or because of their negative behavior. So I consider them both mentors. Overall, I don’t keep hard feelings against any person. And the reason why I don’t do that is that whatever the energy you received from a person, I focus to understand everything around it. Why I always look for why’s and once you pose them, your brain it’s ready to calculate the answer. So I consider many people as my mentors now, so that I don’t leave the question on this general level. If you ask me who mentor me to think like that, then the clear answer there is that it’s my father. He always asked why, he used to say that in any matter you have to elevate from the circumstances, you need to employ a bedside view and review everything partially, and only then you would be able to see that complete the hole. So I keep this as a major compass in my daily life.
Lindsay: That’s really wonderful. That’s really wonderful. And what has been the most important lesson you’ve learned over your career? Is that related to that?
Christos: Yeah, of course, it’s related. You need to trust your colleagues. You need to be able to rely on them. It’s difficult. Many times you find yourself knowing something, you just know something, okay, but you just don’t have the time or the strength or the tools to just do it. So you need to trust people, you need to be able to rely on other people and their skills to perform what needs to be performed. You need to be able to cooperate, you need to be able to associate, discuss, so you have to be open.
Christos: I think this is the most important lesson I learned throughout the years. It’s easy not to do that, It’s easy to just say, oh, I’m keeping my things around me and I’m doing what I know best, and of course, I’m not going to spend time in younger lawyers and I’m not going to spend time into a case in which I feel A, B or C. Now, if you cooperate, if you find the synergies, then the results are great and are rewarding. And I think that this is the best lesson I’ve learned in my career.
Lindsay: Well, and that to me, we talk a lot about lawyers as part of a law firm is in a partnership. And to me, that’s really the essence of a partnership.
Christos: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. You need to be able to, even on the partners level, it’s no wonder that partnerships, people that cooperate, people that partner together to engage in the profession, my understanding is that they are doing better than people who are practicing law, my understanding. And even at least in Cyprus, I’m not going to say something outside Cyprus because I don’t have firsthand experience, even Cyprus offices that remain as single figure offices either through the next generation or either the generation after that, they either merged with other officers or they either accepted more partners in so yeah, it’s there, it’s in front of us, it’s synergies, it’s a key to a better professional life.
Lindsay: It’s true. That is how the ILN works.
Christos: Yeah, exactly. Is what I said before if only I had the time to follow everything. If only I had the time.
Lindsay: Nobody does except me.
Christos: So you are the lucky one.
Lindsay: That’s right. So we put it all out there for when you can take the parts of it that work for you. But on that note, what does, and I know you haven’t had a chance to meet anybody in person yet because you’re a recent member, but what does being a part of the ILN mean to you?
Christos: It was very clear from the beginning for us, the triggering point was that we had clients that we needed to serve them abroad. We needed to have the ability to reach out and know that our clients would receive the best service available. So that is what made us look over our borders. In the past, we tried to do it on a bilateral basis, basically, find the destination and see who would be able to cooperate better there, it’s very difficult, we would need three lifetimes to achieve what ILN already achieved. So this was our main reason for reaching out to ILN, basically a global reach. Now, apart from that, it’s always an interpersonal relationship, it’s always the sense of commitment, it’s many other things. And I believe from the brief period we are participating, we believe that we found a very good match, with time obviously will show better, but this we think we are there.
Lindsay: What is aside from everything that’s going on in the world right now, what is one thing that you’re enjoying?
Christos: Okay. I’m enjoying my family life, I’m enjoying my professional life. Generally, I enjoy life. I openly say that I’m a life lover, so whatever comes I’ll just take it in and move on. Yeah, life is beautiful.
Lindsay: That’s really wonderful. Well, on that note, I really appreciate you joining us this week. Thank you so much. And thank you to all of our listeners. When you have a moment, please rate, review and subscribe to us on iTunes podcast or wherever you listen to podcasts. And thank you again.