In this interview, Mr. Mario Pascal Zlattinger has shares his professional journey through various sectors, starting with academic roots in Business Law. Transitioning from law firms to the construction and leasing industries, they highlight experiences in bond issuance, negotiations, and legal challenges. The move to a family enterprise was driven by a desire for direct impact, and the shift to the leasing industry brought unique challenges, emphasizing the importance of staying informed in a dynamic landscape. The interviewee reflects on applying capital markets expertise, mitigating legal risks, and fostering communication within the organization, showcasing adaptability and a continuous learning mindset across diverse industries.
We started the interview by asking, “Can you elaborate on your academic background and how your master’s degree in business law has influenced your career path in the legal field?”
Mario replied, “I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Business Law at a prestigious Austrian university. The degree is a combination of law and business administration and helps me, as a lawyer, to understand business processes and to assess them from a legal perspective. My studies have always interested me in economic activities and their effects, which is why I have always worked as a lawyer in commercial law firms or companies.”
Navigating Legal Complexities
The Worlds Times: Having worked in various legal firms and being responsible for areas such as “capital markets,” insolvency, and litigation, could you share a specific challenging case or project you managed and the outcomes achieved?
Mario replied, “When I was working in a law firm, we had a client who wanted to issue a bond worth several hundred million euros. We took the client from the initial request to the actual review. It was quite a time-consuming process.
Recently, I have been involved in the legal support and implementation of several projects on the subject of “car subscriptions”. This involved a lot of research and explanation.”
Venturing Beyond Law Firms
The Worlds Times: Transitioning from legal roles in law firms to a family enterprise in the construction sector, what motivated you to make that move, and how did your responsibilities evolve in that context?
Mario continued, “Well, in the end the decision was quite simple. I just wanted to see how my advice would have a direct impact on the business and be directly involved in the change. I also felt that I wanted to make a difference.”
The Worlds Times: You mentioned enjoying negotiation. Can you provide an example of a significant negotiation you conducted while working in the construction industry, and how did it contribute to your role as the Head of Legal in that enterprise?
Mario replied, “We have had many very intense and important negotiations with several of our customers over the years. It is difficult to single out any one negotiation as they all followed a very similar pattern.”
Navigating Legal Challenges
The Worlds Times: As the Head of Legal in a family enterprise, what were the key legal challenges you faced, and how did you navigate them to ensure the success of the business?
Mario answered, “In the construction industry, there is a lot of talk about warranties, liability and compensation. In my negotiations with clients, I have always made sure that we protect ourselves as much as possible and that the wording of the contracts is clear. Unclear contract terms lead to different interpretations, which leads to a lot of disagreement between the parties and should be avoided at all costs. The result would be higher and unpredictable costs, which should be avoided at all costs.”
The Worlds Times: Moving from construction to the leasing industry, what prompted this shift, and how did your experience in the construction sector prepare you for your current role as the General Counsel/Head of Legal in the leasing industry?
Mario replied, “There was some disagreement about how the legal department should be staffed in the future. There were other differences of opinion, but I don’t want to go into them now. Moving to the leasing industry was definitely an exciting challenge, as a service industry is very customer-focused and there are very different issues to consider than in the construction industry. However, I needed the construction experience, especially when it came to negotiations. Thanks to my experience in negotiating with major clients in the construction industry, I was able to negotiate well with major clients in the leasing industry.”
Adapting to Change
The Worlds Times: In your current role, what legal aspects of the leasing industry do you find most challenging, and how do you stay abreast of changes in the regulatory landscape that may impact your organization?
Mario replied, “Things are changing all the time, especially in the private customer segment, and you have to be very well informed and up to date.
The automotive industry is also changing. It’s not entirely clear where it’s going, and the challenge is to cover many different scenarios legally. I think change will remain the biggest challenge in the coming years.
We have tools that tell us when something is changing in the relevant areas. These tools are very helpful and effective.”
Capitalizing on Expertise
The Worlds Times: As someone with a background in capital markets, how do you apply your expertise in your current position in the leasing industry, and what unique perspectives does it bring to your role?
Mario continued, “Now, in times of high interest rates, alternative forms of financing or bonds are of course a possibility or an opportunity to obtain cheaper financing and should definitely be discussed. I can advise the decision-makers on this and save us high consultancy fees.”
Implementing Strategic Solutions
The Worlds Times: Can you share a situation where you had to mitigate a legal risk in the leasing industry, and what strategies did you employ to address the issue effectively?
Mario replied, “In principle, we have good, clear contracts with our customers and suppliers. However, we recently had a discussion with a customer about the warranty. The vehicle stopped unexpectedly (also on the motorway). In the (old) contract concluded with the customer 10 years ago, we had not amended the warranty in our favors. We incurred unexpected costs that could have been avoided. In such cases, I look at the contracts of all major customers, assess the risk, if any, and report to the risk manager. The next step is to negotiate the clause with the customer and, if I haven’t already done so, amend the draft contracts accordingly.”
Facilitating Seamless Cross-Functional Collaboration
The Worlds Times: As the Head of Legal, what strategies do you use to ensure effective communication and collaboration between legal and other departments within your organization?
Mario replied, “We have a friendly, collegial relationship between colleagues, so you can just walk into the office and discuss things. We also have regular meetings to discuss our issues. In my opinion, these are also important to hear the problems of other departments and possibly to cover legal issues before they arise in the masses.”
Tailoring Legal Strategies for Varied Challenges
Lastly we asked, “With your extensive experience in different sectors, how do you approach adapting legal strategies and practices to meet the specific needs and challenges of each industry you’ve worked in?”
“I think the most important thing is to listen to colleagues from other departments. You also need to understand the business in order to make the right recommendations. So it is important to keep learning, to be interested and curious, and to keep up with the industry outside of working hours.” Mario concluded
Connect Mario Pascal Zlattinger on LinkedIn