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31 January 2022
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Building Real Estate: An Interview with Katarzyna Sulimierska of Schoenherr

CEE Legal Matters spoke with real estate expert Katarzyna Sulimierska to learn more about her and her practice.

CEELM: To start, tell us a bit about your career leading up to your current role.

Sulimierska: Shortly after my studies, I had an interview with Marek Grodek who hired me in his team at the Dentons legacy firm Salans. Two years later I moved with him to Greenberg Traurig, where I worked until 2019 when I joined Hogan Lovells, again with Marek. To make a long story short, over my career I’ve worked with three firms prior to Schoenherr but with the same team.

CEELM: Why did you choose real estate as the practice area to focus on?

Sulimierska: The firm where I did an internship during my studies had a really strong real estate practice, and I ended up focusing on the area for my master’s thesis as well. When I joined Salans that direction was sealed.

I do think there’s always going to be a demand for real estate lawyers but it’s more than that – looking around the market, real estate departments are growing bigger and bigger so there’s obviously a lot of work in the field.

There’s also a certain charm to working on something with a tangible result. I often find myself walking down the street and thinking: “I worked on that building. Oh, and that one too!”

CEELM: Do you still find the field exciting after so many years?

Sulimierska: Certainly. There’s a lot of different aspects that always keep you on your toes. I had a friend who switched practices from M&A to real estate and she was shocked by how much was involved, in terms of regulations. It’s not just about following the commercial companies’ code – there are a lot of interesting legal issues involved.

Another aspect that I enjoy a lot is the nature of the transactions. While the legal profession can often be confrontational, in real estate there’s always a sense that there’s a common interest to make a deal happen, so you have to cooperate with your counterparty’s counsel to find a solution that works for¬ both sides. And, at the end of the day, the outcome is likely a positive one, unlike in dispute resolution where, in most cases, one party is unhappy with the end result.

CEELM: You mentioned real estate teams are growing in Poland. What work is driving that growth?

Sulimierska: There’s a lot going on right now. First, there are still a lot of office buildings being built. To give you a sense, 21 new office buildings have been completed in the first half of the year alone.

And there is a lot going on in residential real estate as well. A lot of people are looking to put their money into something and residential has a lot of appeal, especially when you consider that, in some instances, we see a year-to-year growth of 20% in prices.

Warehouses too are still being built like crazy. It was six years ago that people were saying that this will only last for another year or two, but here we are in 2021 with a lot of development projects still in the pipeline. That’s especially driven by the rise in e-commerce and e-fulfillment, but production companies need more warehousing space as well. And it’s not just Warsaw – really, warehouses are popping up everywhere along highways, especially close to the German border.

CEELM: What about your practice specifically – what’s been keeping you busy?

Sulimierska: I focus on whatever the client brings in [she says, smiling]. But I generally advise investors from the real estate sector on a whole variety of issues. In the last years, I was involved in a number of logistics and office projects. I also worked on a couple of interesting wind and photovoltaic projects and advised a major UK investor on a large infrastructure transaction consisting of the acquisition of a network of communication towers located in Poland. Since my second area of focus is environmental law, I work with clients on various matters from that field as well. For example, I advised Cooper Standard on the sale of two manufacturing facilities in Poland to Mutares SE & Co.

CEELM: What have been the pieces of legislation that most impacted your work in the last couple of years and how? And is there anything on the horizon you are keeping an eye out for?

Sulimierska: I have noticed that more and more clients are looking for legal advice on environmental issues. I think that there are two main reasons for that. The first one is that compliance with environmental law is part of their company’s policy. The second is that, over the years, a lot of new legislation was adopted – related to chemicals (REACH), waste, or packaging. My clients want to comply with these regulations, but they need professional assistance, especially in the context of ESG.

By the way, ESG is a number one subject right now and investors use these criteria to screen potential investments. The more ‘green’ the investment, the easier it is to find an investor and finance it.

This article was originally published in Issue 8.11 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine