Up to now, our regular Rockaway Insider newsletter has focused mainly on upper management. In the new year we would like to gradually also feature those whose work is frequently hidden behind the scenes, but is…
When Jakub first crossed the threshold of the Rockaway offices a couple of years ago, it took him quite while to recover from the initial shock. This graduate from a prestigious British university who found enough time during his studies to absolve several work terms abroad, and during his first, relatively demanding job managed to finish comparative exams in various areas of Czech law “on the side”, was used to strict separation of work and personal life. But this world of investments in a relaxed atmosphere, something very typical for Rockaway, eventually enchanted him. And above all, as he himself says, “once you’re in it, this business that’s done from the heart and with a bit of a punk attitude, is something you don’t want to abandon”.
And that’s paid off for him: today, as Senior Legal Counsel, he spends most of his time on M&A transactions and large corporate and financing projects within the Rockaway Group. These also include the ones he already knew and had a relationship with as a teenager – for example, he was one of the key lawyers during negotiations to acquire a share in the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. And yet it’s not so long ago that he was considering a law career abroad, which given the fact that much of his education took place abroad is not something odd. “I wasn’t very good at math or physics, but I was good at various essays or arguments, so during my studies at a German-language high school becoming a lawyer gradually started making sense,” recalls Jakub.
He’d wanted to study abroad from the beginning, based on his good experience with a year spent attending a high school in the state of Oregon, USA. Jakub also liked Britain, plus studying at a German-language high school more or less naturally also led his classmates to apply to foreign universities. But unlike them, Jakub went to Scotland. “I wanted to go against the flow a bit. I had had good marks and it would have been easy to get into a German university, but I’d spent eight years of high school surrounded by Germans, and it was time for a change,” he says with a smile. Jakub decided to look at several schools in Scotland, and in September 2011 he started taking Law and German Law at the University of Aberdeen.
Paradoxically, after moving from the Czech Republic to Britain, Jakub’s “tour” was merely beginning, because he decided to gain expertise in as many legal codes as he could. During his third year, Jakub spent two semesters in Freiburg, Germany, at the end of his fourth year he voluntarily said goodbye to Scotland for a couple of months, and went to China, specifically a university in Beijing, and on top of it all he also didn’t forget about the Czech Republic: “During summer vacation, which I often spent at home, I worked for a law office in Prague, which two years prior to graduation then offered me the position of an articled clerk. I liked the fact that while many of my classmates from Aberdeen were having a hard time finding even a regular summer job, I already had a traineeship secured. Work opportunities and quality of life in Scotland and Britain are generally a bit overrated, and reality can be quite harsh. Here in the Czech Republic we really don’t have anything to complain about – and I started looking forward to being here again more and more.”
And the Czech branch of Noerr, a German law office that focuses on German and Anglo-American clients, looked like another, quite logical step for a graduate in the area of British and German law – an international environment, business done predominantly in German or English, and yet in the heart of the Czech capital. Very soon after graduation, Jakub was exposed to a relatively broad range of areas of law, including M&A transactions and – quite atypical for Czech law offices – internal investigations in the area of white-collar crime.
The job as M&A Legal Counsel at Rockaway came along at the right time, but at the same time nothing was forcing Jakub to leave his job at the German law office. “It seemed incredible to me, as the job description was precisely what I wanted to do. But on the other hand, I was in no hurry to go anywhere, and was happy at Noerr. The interview at Rockaway was relaxed, there was nothing at stake for me… And suddenly, out of the blue, at work I told them that I’d have to say goodbye.” Rockaway thus welcomed someone that no employer would like letting go: a lawyer perfectly fluent in three languages, plus one with a very valuable “out of the box” approach to his job.
AMBITIONS HAND IN HAND WITH PUNK
Even though Jakub was a perfect fit, his entry into the Rockaway world was a bit of a shock at first. “At my former job I was used to putting on an imaginary mask, concentrating on my work, and then going home. In the relaxed environment at Rockaway, my private life started overlapping with my work life, which took me a while to get used to; I’d been well trained. But after a few months I started being normal and myself – I admit that it was an incredibly liberating feeling.” In the end Jakub found his place at Rockaway from both a human and work perspective, and found the legal team a great fit. “You really get to like the people here, and after a year you realize that you don’t want to trade this atmosphere for anything else.” Plus Jakub was almost immediately given work for which he alone was responsible. Back then he took on the entire implementation of GDPR, and paradoxically this was why he quickly gained the full confidence of his colleagues – he didn’t focus just on his own work, but was also willing to help in areas that he had to learn a lot about. That’s because in the legal team, taking the initiative and voluntarily educating yourself is worth its weight in gold.
While Jakub may be part of the legal team, he emphasizes the singularity of the close relationship (and knowledge sharing) with the financial team – because they’re constantly learning from each other. “When we’re together like this it keeps getting better and better, and above all we’re preparing to keep growing so we can cover even more.”
Jakub’s favourite area of work is the Media vertical, based on Rockaway’s investment as strategic partner in the company Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary. According to Jakub, while Rockaway often has the reputation of being an aggressive, opportunistic, and unpredictable investor that has no plan, the Media branch is evidence of the fact that at Rockaway people capable of being enthusiastic about a not so profitable business, as well as those who think investments through in advance. “We take a punk-rock approach, but think in a structured manner, even though that’s not evident at first glance. An example is our Media vertical, which as a whole makes perfect business sense to me. Plus it’s not just about money, but also about building a platform, developing events, the town of Karlovy Vary, and the entire region. It’s a passion that everyone loves to work on. Including me.”