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In It for the Long Haul: An Interview with David Hanis of Oppenheim

In It for the Long Haul: An Interview with David Hanis of Oppenheim

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David Hanis joined Oppenheim in Budapest to specialize in energy fresh out of law school, and has never looked back. 15 years later, just before Christmas 2023, CEE Legal Matters reported on his appointment to a Partner position at the same firm. Demonstrating you can move forward by staying in the same place, he shares his story below.

CEELM: First of all, congratulations on your appointment, David. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself, your background, and your early days as a lawyer?

Hanis: Thank you for the warm congratulations. It's an honor to share my journey with the readers. I'm 38 years old and embarked on my legal career immediately after graduating from the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, back in 2009. My transition into the professional world was swift; merely a week after my graduation, I began my tenure at Oppenheim. This firm has been my professional home for the past 15 years, a place where I've grown from a junior lawyer to a partner, navigating through various roles and responsibilities. My specialization in energy law within our Energy and Regulated Industries practice group has been both challenging and rewarding, offering me a unique perspective on the legal intricacies of this dynamic sector. On a more personal note, being a father to twin girls has enriched my life in unimaginable ways, balancing my professional ambitions with the joys of parenthood.

CEELM: What made you choose Oppenheim at the start of your career?

Hanis: My choice of Oppenheim was serendipitous yet deliberate. During my university studies, I had the privilege of being taught by Gergely Legradi, one of the founding partners of Oppenheim, who not only imparted legal knowledge but also introduced the practical aspects of law, particularly in contract negotiations. His mentorship extended beyond the classroom, offering me a trainee position at Oppenheim. The decision to accept was influenced by my respect for Gergely as a mentor and my research on the firm, which solidified my eagerness to join. Oppenheim's reputation as a market leader, especially in energy law, aligned perfectly with my career aspirations.

CEELM: After joining the firm, what did you find there that convinced you to stay?

Hanis: My initial attraction to Oppenheim was its prestigious standing in the legal market, particularly within the energy sector. However, what cemented my decision to stay was the firm’s culture. The community at Oppenheim was welcoming, supportive, and conducive to professional growth. It wasn't just the opportunity to work at a market-leading firm that appealed to me but the genuine camaraderie and mentorship that I found. These aspects, coupled with a clear path for career advancement, made Oppenheim the perfect fit for me.

CEELM: How has your role and practice evolved since joining Oppenheim?

Hanis: The evolution of my role at Oppenheim has been a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. Initially, my focus was on mastering the legal framework of the energy sector, from electricity to natural gas laws. The early years were about building a foundation, understanding the markets, and honing my legal skills. Passing the bar exams marked a significant turning point in my career, transitioning from learning to practical application and client management. Over the years, my connection with our clients deepened, allowing me to become a key figure in providing legal advice for complex situations. This progression led to my current role as co-head of the Energy and Regulated Industries practice group, where my responsibilities have expanded to include leadership and strategic direction.

CEELM: Can you recall the first time you had to manage or coordinate a team?

Hanis: One of my most memorable experiences at Oppenheim was when I first took on a leadership role in September 2017. It was a pivotal moment, marking my transition from individual contributor to team leader. Managing and mentoring our new (at the time) junior lawyer, Zoltan Bodak, was a significant responsibility. I took great pride in guiding him through the complexities of our practice, fostering a collaborative environment that encouraged growth and learning. This experience was the first of many that shaped my approach to leadership, emphasizing the importance of mentorship and team dynamics in achieving our collective goals.

CEELM: Why has the Oppenheim team remained a solid fit for you over the years?

Hanis: Reflecting on my time at Oppenheim, two key factors stand out as to why the firm has remained the ideal place for me: the treatment of people and the career perspective it offers. Oppenheim excels in fostering a supportive and respectful environment, where professional and personal growth are equally valued. The firm's commitment to its people, combined with its vision for the future, has provided me with unparalleled opportunities to advance and lead. This culture of excellence and support is what makes Oppenheim not just a workplace, but a community where I've been able to thrive.

CEELM: How do you see your practice evolving from here on?

Hanis: Our practice group and my own practice are closely related: if the Energy practice group – co-led by Gergely Legradi – is evolving, then so is my practice. What I see and experience on the market – energy, energy efficiency, renewables, mining – these are all on a fast track all over the world. With added emphasis in Europe, and country specifics in Hungary. I see this as a key transition taking place over the next ten years. We’ll stay very busy in both energy and other regulated industries (such as waste management or environmental issues in automotive and healthcare).

Specifically, energy law requires meticulous attention to detail and specialization in the field. As well as the understanding of the technical aspects – if you don’t understand how the market works, what system balance or balancing capacity is – you can’t negotiate that contract. Sure, some commercial provisions may be the same, but we need to understand both the big picture and the medium level: what is happening on the market and why it’s happening. Energy is also a highly regulated market with clear specifics – e.g., transmission and distribution system operators, energy stock exchanges – those are quite particular players, and you need to know their responsibilities and codes so that you are ultimately able to elaborate legal solutions that take all of that into account.

In terms of mandates, I am certain we’ll see an increase in renewables, not just because of the EU and Hungarian energy strategies aiming to increase their presence in the energy mix, but because that’s the actual market situation: a lot of investors are doing renewable projects or seeking to invest there. We’re looking at growing photovoltaics, energy storage, wind, and geothermal markets. Renewables will be the biggest share of our work. Second, we’ll have new structures developed by commercial markets – various types of PPAs, for example, synthetic PPAs (a very exciting, basically financial structure) or sleeved PPAs (a multiplayer solution including generator, trader, and consumer) and the traditional corporate PPAs. And third: technology-intensive investments in the Hungarian market. There are some very special transactions aimed at the development of new technologies, to exploit geothermal energy or create balancing capacities, for example.

In my view, there will also be a more intense shift of focus, with traditional companies investing in e-mobility, for example, because of the simple necessity of people switching to electric vehicles. On top of all that, you will have to deal with a lot of quite new players – such as prosumers, aggregators, and energy communities in the mix as well – the integration of which will require smart grid solutions. Finally, the traditional hydrocarbon and energy trading sector will remain very important, as they are strategic market segments.

CEELM: As a partner, what are your plans for shaping the future of the law firm?

Hanis: As a partner, my vision for the future of Oppenheim is to build upon our strengths, ensuring that we remain competitive and responsive to the changing legal landscape. This involves not only maintaining our market visibility and attracting top talent but also focusing on client satisfaction and internal growth. By fostering a culture of excellence, collaboration, and innovation, we can continue to provide exceptional service to our clients while offering our team members meaningful opportunities for professional development. Ultimately, the success of our firm will be measured by our clients and colleagues.

Hungary Knowledge Partner

Nagy és Trócsányi was founded in 1991, turned into limited professional partnership (in Hungarian: ügyvédi iroda) in 1992, with the aim of offering sophisticated legal services. The firm continues to seek excellence in a comprehensive and modern practice, which spans international commercial and business law. 

The firm’s lawyers provide clients with advice and representation in an active, thoughtful and ethical manner, with a real understanding of clients‘ business needs and the markets in which they operate.

The firm is one of the largest home-grown independent law firms in Hungary. Currently Nagy és Trócsányi has 26 lawyers out of which there are 8 active partners. All partners are equity partners.

Nagy és Trócsányi is a legal entity and registered with the Budapest Bar Association. All lawyers of the Budapest office are either members of, or registered as clerks with, the Budapest Bar Association. Several of the firm’s lawyers are admitted attorneys or registered as legal consultants in New York.

The firm advises a broad range of clients, including numerous multinational corporations. 

Our activity focuses on the following practice areas: M&A, company law, litigation and dispute resolution, real estate law, banking and finance, project financing, insolvency and restructuring, venture capital investment, taxation, competition, utilities, energy, media and telecommunication.

Nagy és Trócsányi is the exclusive member firm in Hungary for Lex Mundi – the world’s leading network of independent law firms with in-depth experience in 100+countries worldwide.

The firm advises a broad range of clients, including numerous multinational corporations. Among our key clients are: OTP Bank, Sberbank, Erste Bank, Scania, KS ORKA, Mannvit, DAF Trucks, Booking.com, Museum of Fine Arts of Budapest, Hungarian Post Pte Ltd, Hiventures, Strabag, CPI Hungary, Givaudan, Marks & Spencer, CBA.

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