Full house in the ballroom of the Grand Hotel Vienna

Within the impressive premises of the Vienna Grand Hotel ballroom, together with Legal 500, we welcomed General Counsels from all over Austria.

Our partners Simone Petsche-Demmel and Andreas Pollak discussed with a distinguished panel the legal risks for companies ranging from greenwashing to the supply chain. In the concluding Fire-Side Chat, they discussed with Sabine Matejka, President of the Association of Austrian Judges, the possibilities of effectively shaping and expediting court proceedings.

Thursday, 9th March 2023, saw The Legal 500 travelling to beautiful Vienna to oversee the launch of the inaugural edition of the GC Summit Austria 2023 at the Grand Hotel Wien. The event saw a full room of in-house counsel in attendance, together with the five partners — Baker McKenzie, HSP Rechtsanwälte, petsche pollak, Taylor Wessing and Wolf Theiss.

The event kicked off with a welcome address by Sara Maggi, The Legal 500’s editorial lead for the Summit, followed by keynote speaker Barbara Sesser— head of legal at refurbed — who set the right tone for the day, by providing some inspirational concepts and insights on the breadth of challenges in-house counsel face in Austria.

The first session was a presentation moderated by HSP. Law’s partner Dr. Peter Wagesreiter titled: An expert guide to the transparency register. The presentation covered many aspects of the legal requirements for maintaining a transparency register and the consequences of non-compliance at a national and international level. Attendees appreciated the practical guidance on how to navigate such registers.

Petsche pollak moderated our second panel. Here Simone Petsche-Demmel and Andreas Pollak, partners at petsche pollak, joined Jonas Hermann, general counsel EMEA, environmental catalyst and metal solutions at BASF; Stefan Führer, head legal and compliance, executive director, VTB Europe (until recently); and Nese Acar-Nazli, OMV Group. The panel focused on the system of corporate criminal liability and the looming threats. The panellists gave valuable insights into the current legal framework for corporate criminal liabilities, providing practical examples and valuable concepts for the attendees.

The third session focused on the challenges that ESG poses to legal departments. Sustainability expert Eva-Maria Ségur-Cabanac, partner at Baker McKenzie, moderated the discussion with legal and ESG professionals Stefan Wochinz, legal and compliance officer at Vaillant; Bernard Reviczky, general counsel South-Easter Europe region, Siemens Energy; Timo Matthias Spitzer, head of legal corporate and investment banking— Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Nordic Countries, Banco Santander; and Andreas Schwartz, in-house employment legal counsel, Western Union. The audience gained a better understanding of the legal requirements and the risk associated with sustainability and ESG, as well as the legal department’s role in ensuring compliance and mitigating risks.

After a refreshing coffee break, the audience pleasantly welcomed the next session, sponsored by Taylor Wessing, focused on providing practical guidance on Whistleblowing from an (inter)national perspective. Speakers included Wolfgang Kapek, partner at Taylor Wessing Vienna; Jan-Patrick Vogel, partner at Taylor Wessing Frankfurt; Manfred Klika, chief legal officer at Diamond Aircraft Industries; Mario Himmelbauer, corporate audit, compliance and data protection officer at Energie Oberösterreich; and Julia Lörincz, legal and compliance officer at Austrian Airlines.

The fifth panel of the day, moderated by Wolf Theiss, saw the speakers — Valerie Hohenberg, partner at Wolf Theiss; Paulina Pomorski, counsel at Wolf Theiss; Markus Taufner, counsel at Wolf Theiss; Maximilian Bülau, partner at Hengeler Mueller — sharing their insights and experiences on this critical topic. Attendees benefitted from the diverse range of views discussed by the panellists bringing home crucial tips on how they can help their companies prepare for potential litigation risks and protect their businesses from legal and reputational harm. Attendees asked questions and shared their experiences and doubts on the topic, providing a valuable forum for networking.

The final panel of the day was a gracious fireside chat moderated by petsche pollak. Andreas Pollak, partner at petsche pollak; Simone Petsche-Demmel, partner at petsche pollak; and Sabine Matejka, president of the Austrian Association of Judges, discussed how to speed up business, trials and prosecution.

After such a brilliant and insightful session, attendees moved to a drinks and canapés reception. The Legal 500 was delighted to host the GC Summit Austria 2023 and exceedingly happy with the positive turnout of the event and the topics discussed. We look forward to being back in Vienna soon!

Link to the Event report and photos.