Laura Toncescu is Managing Partner at the new KPMG associated law firm, NTMO. She recently joined the team and has a vast experience and expertise in Banking, Finance and Insurance, Mergers and Acquisitions, Capital Markets and other areas of law. What is the story behind the establishment of NTMO?

L.T.: Firstly, please let me explain what NTMO means: thus NTMO comes from ’Nemoianu, Toncescu, Mihaila, Olteanu sprl’ and it is a Romanian fully fledged law firm, registered with the Bucharest Bar Association. The four names are the names of its partners, myself being one of them. NTMO is part of KPMG Legal, the international network of law firms affiliated with KPMG worldwide. KPMG Legal is one of the biggest legal networks in the world, having more than 1500 lawyers in more than 90 countries, and it is constantly increasing in numbers and capabilities.    

In Romania, the legal practice affiliated with KPMG has roots of around 20 years old. Its life through regulatory constraints and limitations was not always an easy one, but it always succeeded to form very good, outstanding lawyers, to create real value for the clients and to develop capabilities hard to find in the market, even within the biggest law firms. 

Under such circumstances NTMO is now the normal outcome of the continuous development of this legal practice combined with an extended partnership formula. Daniela Nemoianu, a very stylish lady lawyer with more than 18 years of experience, founded Nemoianu Attorneys-at-law, the form under which the legal practice functioned until recently. The other two partners, Alina Mihaila the kindest person you may find in a law firm, and Sebastian Olteanu, a very talented lawyer, have been recently promoted, in recognition of their great performances in the last years. Myself, I have decided to join this project, coming from the position of partner and Head of Financial Services with another law firm affiliated with a big four company. 

Moreover, NTMO has a big team of lawyers with common values, high ambitions and solid credentials. We believe in friendship, quality relationships, integrity, and in the idea of a ’higher purpose’ in our personal and professional life. What are the implications of being the KPMG associated law firm, member of the Big Four?

L.T.: This is something which is not well known or well understood by people. More than this, colleagues of mine and even myself during our careers, we received questions like ’why aren’t you working with a traditional law firm?’

Of course, choosing the type of law firm for which you would like to work as a lawyer is a personal decision, but many times people do not really understand what a law firm affiliated with a big four company offers, so I welcome the opportunity of sharing certain information on it.

Thus, in our case, the active continuous professional collaboration of NTMO with KPMG brings different development perspectives for our lawyers. Affiliation implies, besides compliance with additional risk management and quality assurance rules and standards, daily collaboration with numerous Romanian and foreign experts and consultants – KPMG has six territorial offices and more than 700 employees only in Romania, but it is also a global network with more than 155.000 consultants  and presence in 155 countries.  The products of all talent that such a network encompasses are shared openly and in real time, thus offering the chance to be up to date in a world continuously changing, to get that feeling of motivation and inspiration necessary for high performances. Thus, as lawyers, we develop ourselves towards a different profile - business lawyers, with an expanded understanding and trained to efficiently work in integrated multidisciplinary teams, offering complete solutions for our clients. 

In addition, the continuous interaction with so many people within KPMG, each with various hobbies, passions and opinions contributes to creating and maintaining a good atmosphere for personal development. You moved from Cluj to Bucharest. How was the transition and what do you recommend to students that want to follow the same step?

L.T.: I studied Law at the Faculty of Law from Babes-Bolyai University from Cluj-Napoca. I was also within the first generation of students at European Studies Faculty from the same University, when it was a project sponsored by Strasbourg.  I came to Bucharest because of my professional ambitions, feeling that in Bucharest I would have more chances to build a legal career. It was not always easy and it is still not always easy, as my parents, my brother and his family are still in the Western part of the country, but I would say that it was and it is all worth – fulfilling my professional ambitions in addition to all personal satisfaction involved, makes me a better person, a better daughter and sister. Thus, I would recommend everybody to follow their dreams, to stay focused on these but further on, to share all good energy of successes in all parts of their lives. What was your favourite subject as a student?

L.T.: Strange enough, I liked a lot criminal law and public international law – my thesis was on a subject from public international law. I should also mention that I won a nice prize at a student competition with a paper on a subject from commercial law while I was in the fourth year. How can a law school student prepare for working in business law? Should he pay special attention to certain subjects?

L.T.: Definitely, here are certain courses that are more relevant than others for business law practice. However, it is very important to know that the business law practice is very complex and a solid preparation during law school could be decisive for a fulfilled legal career. From my perspective, during law school, it is important to get good knowledge that makes you understand well the legal institutions and concepts so that you can further creatively work with them, but also it is very important to get a sound legal reasoning – in my opinion, our law schools could still work to improve teaching students how to think and how to have a good legal judgement. What are the qualities you look for in a potential employee?

L.T.: When we hire someone, we always have a long term projection in mind. Each lawyer we take on board has the potential to become one day a partner. Therefore, besides talent, good knowledge, and a sound legal reasoning, we welcome to our team lawyers that are open minded persons with appropriate concern and care for our society, people who share the same values. How does the legal market look in 2014 and what do you think that the future holds for this field?

L.T.: 2014 is an interesting year – for sure it is a better year than the precedent two and we have seen projects under discussions in the last two years that moved on to implementation. We are involved in a series of very complex and challenging projects (for example the first merger project between a bank and a non-banking institution, the second e-money licence in telecom after we also obtained the first one, various due diligence processes for banks and portfolios acquisitions etc.) and we have seen the business market more active this year. However, there still is a high pressure on fees due to continuous decreases of the clients’ budgets, but also due to an increased competition in the legal market that is merely felt on fees and unfortunately less on quality. What was the most interesting/important case in which you were involved?

L.T.: It was the setting up of Garanti Bank SA. Actually it was established as GE Garanti, a joint venture between Garanti Turkey and General Electric, the first joint venture authorised as a bank after Romania’s accession to EU. In addition to legal and regulatory complexities that establishing a bank involves, in this project I had to deal with three teams from the clients (General Electric, Garanti and Dogus – the main shareholder of Garanti) and several teams of experts (fiscal consultants, business consultants, auditors). In a way, this project that took one year and a half, brought me the professional maturity I now have. Of course, Garanti Bank is one of my dearest clients and I feel linked to many people from there. What would you recommend for Romanian law school students?

L.T.: To learn well, to take care of their spirit and make sure they continuously evolve, to give a chance to this country, to contribute to changes, to fight for integrity, to smile a lot! 

This interview was originally published in the sixth issue of the magazine, which can be accessed here. 

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