Founded in 1955 by Panos Korkovelos’ grandfather, after whom he is named, Korkovelos Zagos Law Firm has maintained the traditional values that have served it and its clients well over the years, while developing a technocratic, one-stop-shop approach to working with corporate and private clients from Greece and beyond.
Panos Senior was a well-respected lawyer and left-wing political figure in Greece. Ηis views brought him into conflict with the military dictatorship that controlled the country from 1967-74, which compelled his son and successor, John Korkovelos, to leave home and live in Italy, where he studied law from 1974-79, before returning to work with his father in 1981. Upon Panos Senior’s death in 1987, John took over the firm. His son, Panos, became the third generation to join the business in 2010, after completing two Masters’ degrees in UK and working in telecoms regulation at the European Commission.
“Our clients see us as reliable,” Korkovelos says, “as we have a good reputation in the market. We’re not too aggressive, operate on the notion of fairness with our clients and adversaries, and don’t limit our thinking to what fits in the legal box. We’re all about common sense and being sincere and transparent, so clients know they can trust us. And from a financial perspective, we don’t overcharge. Our business model is not to negotiate with clients, but on their behalf.”
Located in Athens legal district, Korkovelos Zagos Law Firm has a multi-generational team of seven, including senior litigators John Korkovelos and Marina Zagos, corporate advisory specialists Panos Korkovelos (John’s son) and his wife Sofia Kazana, two associate attorneys and a trainee. In 2019, it became a law partnership and, in March 2020, Zagos arrived after a merger with her firm, which was originally established in 1991.
Korkovelos says the firm’s ability to work closely with international corporate clients arises from a relationship John Korkovelos has cultivated with a major Greek industrial group for decades, after serving as their in-house lawyer. As the group grew its interests in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine, Korkovelos Zagos Law Firm advised on energy deals, a €180-million bond restructuring and was involved in a complex asset sale of a business unit.
That experience has been replicated with a multinational German real-estate agency, which originally turned to Korkovelos Zagos Law Firm to help set up their subsidiary in Greece. Thanks to the firm’s expertise and full-service offering, the subsidiary continues to use their services for all their legal needs.
As a result, the firm has expanded its activities in other areas of the law, such as property, working for high-net-worth individuals on luxury real-estate operations: “We have adapted our services to suit our wealthy clients, as we became closer to them,” Korkovelos explains. “And we receive the same feedback: we’re dependable, honest and don’t charge excessive fees. Our goal is always to have a long-term relationship.”
Korkovelos says the firm now splits its time and resources almost equally between litigation and transactional work, with the share of the latter growing significantly in recent months as most court procedures have been closed due to the COVID-Coronavirus pandemic: “We’re totally client-oriented,” Korkovelos confirms, “and communicate with them directly to identify and provide solutions for the full spectrum of their needs.”
As Greece progressively moves towards ADR, Korkovelos believes the amount of transactional advice the firm provides is only set to increase: “Our corporate goal is to continue to develop, while offering the same personal service” he declares. “We don’t intend to become a big firm, but to reach 10 lawyers, all of whom embrace our values and vision, and are competent enough to deal with all our clients’ needs.”
Korkovelos Zagos Law Firm came into contact with TEN, The European Network of Law Firms, through Rumen Kotoff, the founder of TEN’s Bulgarian member firm, Kotoff & Partners . Kotoff proposed the firm join the network and after a visit from Bas Jacobs , the director in charge of the committee for sharing knowledge, who works at TEN Advocaten in the Netherlands , the firm became one of four new members inducted at the Annual General Meeting in October 2020.
“We share the same characteristics and face the same challenges as other firms in TEN,” Korkovelos points out, “and take the same personal approach with other lawyers and with our clients. Our clients typically have international interests, so it’s important for us to have people in other countries who have the same culture and with whom we can communicate. That so many members are mid-size firms, like ourselves, means we form a club of like-minded colleagues.”
Korkovelos is excited about the opportunities membership brings for greater integration into Europe and believes his firm will be able to learn from “more advanced markets.” He sees potential particularly for business with countries like Italy, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and the UK. Greece has long had “a natural affinity” with Britain, he says, and hopes close links will remain post-Brexit.
Although Korkovelos and Kazana tend to work long hours, because of their commitment to going the extra mile for their clients, they make the most of their commute back to the suburbs to unwind and be ready to spend time with their son, aged 7, and five-year-old daughter. While traffic in Athens can be trying, he says the daily drive home is worth it to live close to the mountains and breathe fresh air after busy days in the office.