CMS snags four-lawyer finance team from Baker McKenzie in Poland

Rafał Zakrzewski becomes the firm's fourth banking and finance partner in Warsaw

Rafał Zakrzewski

CMS has boosted its finance capabilities in the Central and Eastern Europe region with the arrival of a four-lawyer team from Baker McKenzie in Poland. 

Rafał Zakrzewski joins the firm as a partner alongside senior associate Przemysław Karolak and lawyers Marcin Krzemień and Michał Horelik. The move sees Zakrzewski, who specialises in international transactions governed by English law, become the fourth partner in CMS’s 35-strong banking and finance team in Poland. 

He joins CMS after two years as the head of Baker McKenzie’s English law desk in Warsaw, where he advised both financial institutions and investors on transaction and project financings with a particular focus on the energy, oil and gas and real estate sectors. Prior to his stint with Baker McKenzie, he spent just over a decade practicing at Clifford Chance, where he specialised in corporate finance. 

Zakrzewski said: “CMS’s strong position in the CEE region allows us to handle even more transactions for existing clients and to support new clients in their cross-border investments governed by English law. Brexit has not affected the main strengths of this legal system. Just as the English language dominates international business, English law remains globally applicable.”

Some of Zakrzewski’s recent transactional work includes advising on the European Bank for Reconstruction (EBRD) and Development’s acquisition of an equity stake in Black Sea Oil & Gas in Romania, as well as the EBRD’s $350m financing provided to integrated steelmaker Arcelor Mittal Kryvyi Rih in Ukraine. 

Andrzej Pośniak, managing partner of CMS Poland, said Zakrzewski’s arrival reflects the firm’s continued growth efforts in Poland and its commitment to providing CEE and international clients with international transaction financing advice. 

“Having Rafał join our team as a very experienced international lawyer is another step towards implementing our business strategy in Poland and in CEE/CIS,” he explained. “We are delighted to welcome Rafał, Przemysław, Marcin and Michał to our team.”

According to the 2021 annual ranking by the newspaper Rzeczpospolita, CMS is Poland’s second largest law firm, with more than 150 lawyers practicing in its Warsaw office. Currently occupying the top spot in the ranking is Dentons, which has reigned as Poland’s largest law firm for ten years in a row. 

The firm boosted its Polish infrastructure and projects bench earlier this year when it hired Wladek Rzycki as a partner from Miller Canfield. Commenting on his move at the time, Rzycki said he aims to help grow CMS’s existing procurement, defence and infrastructure practice in order to cover an “existing market gap” in the scope of coverage provided by law firms in the region.

Last year, CMS Poland hired a group of private equity lawyers from Clifford Chance to bolster its transactions practice ahead of a hoped-for revival in M&A deals later in the year once the Covid-19 pandemic has receded. 

Elsewhere in the region, CEE firm Kinstellar acquired DLA Piper’s office in Kiev, marking the international firm’s withdrawal from the Ukrainian market. The merger saw 38 lawyers join Kinstellar, bringing the firm’s headcount up to 60 lawyers, including 10 partners.

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