After completing his law studies in Belgrade 20 years ago, Aleksander Janković returned to his birthplace of Jagodina, the heart of a region of 80,000 people in the centre of Serbia, just 125 kilometres from the capital, to complete his training. There, not long after qualifying to practice in 2002, he was appointed to lead a regional institution, Contact Serbia, that served as an interface between government and local companies and citizens.
Janković’s role there provided valuable contacts in the private and public sectors, and he was subsequently asked to coordinate the National Investment Plan for his home region and two others. In time, that led to a four-year term, from 2008-12, as a member of the Serbian National Assembly and a Deputy Minister of the Democratic Party, although he continued to practice the law throughout his time in public service.
Today, his eponymous firm is run by his wife, Jelena, and Janković as partners and employs four associate lawyers. To better respond to clients’ needs, they can also draw on a team of over 20 professionals, expert in every aspect of corporate law and business management. And Janković holds a license to practice as a bankruptcy manager, an activity which continues to account for a significant share of the firm’s work.
“Our clients are from all over Serbia,” Janković reveals, “as well as from Italy, Germany, Cyprus and Turkey. About fifty percent are Serbian and the others come from abroad. Our national clients are mostly located in the western part of the country, around Jagodina and the city of Prokuplje (N.B. CAN YOU PLEASE CONFIRM THIS IS CORRECT?). They range from small to big, but most are medium-sized; they’re the best to work with.”
Janković estimates that in the region of half his firm’s business comprises legal work, while the remainder encompasses all kind of business consultancy services, which he, Jelena and one of his associates specialise in: “We have very close relationships with our clients,” he says, “especially foreign companies, where we offer an over-and-above service from setting-up to closing businesses”
“We even help out with their private problems,” his wife adds, smiling. “Our approach is to try to avoid going to court and to share our knowledge openly with our clients. About 20% of our work we do for free, for friends and as a community service.”
The Serbian legal marketplace is very competitive, Janković insists, “but there are too many lawyers and not enough work, especially because the courts have been restricted due to the COVID crisis. But companies work all the time, so we usually aim to operate on a fee or retainer basis, rather than case to case.”
The Janković’s firm first came into contact with TEN, The European Network of Law Firms, through a long-term client of theirs who also worked with Adolfo Martos in Spain. They then met with Luiza Budușan, TEN’s President and the founder of Budușan and Associates from Romania, in January 2020 and became members of the network in October at the Annual General Meeting.
“Switzerland, Germany and Austria are the countries with the most interests in Serbia,” Janković says, “while our Serbian clients are active all over Europe. We’re a small market, so we expect our membership of TEN will bring more business going out than coming in. After 20 years, we’re still not members of the European Union, but our laws are almost all harmonised to EU legislation, so doing business here and across Europe is not as hard as it once was.”
Partners both in and out of the office, the Jankovićs have been married for 16 years and have two boys. They both grew up in, and clearly love living in, the centre of Jagodina, which they say has a great quality of life and lots of local amenities.
As a family, they enjoy going to the beach – Saloniki in Greece is just four and a half hours’ drive away, they point out – and the mountains, especially Italy, to go skiing. Janković is a keen driver and car collector – he owns a beautifully restored Citröen 2CV Charleston and a Honda S2000 – a hobby his wife, Jelena, seems happy to indulge, meaning they have a choice of transport to get away whenever they can.