Alina Matei: Thank you, Ioana Vieru, Global Corporate Vice President,UIPATH, for your time with JURIDICE.ro readers. UIPATH now NNDKP not very long ago. Let’s take it one at a time, Ioana. What challenge did you get with the Law Faculty?
Ioana Vieru: What challenged me to choose the Law Faculty was the idea of “equipping” business people with those legal tools needed to make their business and life efficient. Also, I wanted to help preventing them from reaching disputes or in any case to reduce their risk as much as possible from this point of view.
This desire was also based on a personal experience: a rather important commercial lawsuit that my father lost when I was 14. I always thought that if my father had this kind of help or advice when he started his business, he wouldn’t have gotten to the dispute and in no way would he have lost it. In all the approximately 10 years I have worked in the M&A practice at NNDKP I have had this in mind and, looking back now I realize that I have been successful with this because, for example, I have laid the legal foundations of many successful partnerships between Romanian entrepreneurs and foreign companies – and not only – so that in the case of potentially contentious situations things are clear and solvable as quickly as possible (e.g. by preparing agreements between shareholders, by correctly identifying and classifying risks in transactions and including safeguards and functional mechanisms to resolve possible disputes between the parties, etc.).
And to give another nuance to the answer: I think I can say that the Law Faculty was the right challenge for me. Like every one of us, I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered if that’s what I want to do, if it represents me, if it fulfills me, if I want to do something else. And with the exception of the last question, the answer to the other ones was yes each time.
Alina Matei: How was the student stage? The area you didn’t like at all, which was it?
Ioana Vieru: Full. I think that would be the right adjective to qualify my period as a student and my life in general by the way. Especially the current period. But let’s go back to that period to explain a little better why I say it was a busy period. I attended in parallel with the Faculty of Law of the University of Bucharest, the courses of the Franco-Romanian Legal College/ Paris 1 Pantheon –Sorbonne as well as the courses of the Faculty of Political Sciences within SNSPA. And for the first six months of my studies, I also went to the courses of other faculties I had entered (sociology, business administration, international economic relations and others). I wanted to “taste” everything and understand what suits me in addition to Law.
Therefore, during my student years, I was running continuously from one course to another, from one faculty to another, and at the end of year I know that I had a moment when I realized that the three academic choices were complementing between themselves very well and promising a lot: Law was the basis, the foundation, over which came the training from the Franco-Romanian College, which, although it was still a legal training, was following a different method that taught me to synthesize, process, corroborate. The courses of the Faculty of Political Science have opened up other perspective for me, and, although I have not been able to fully make the most of the knowledge gained in this direction, I think it is never too late.
About the legal area that I didn’t like at all, I actually thought about this question several times, and I’ve taken inventory of all the area I went through in Law Faculty; but, although it may sound trivial, I don’t have a subject that I didn’t like at all. I have subjects that have “caught” me more, others less but it’s not I didn’t like at all.
Alina Matei: How did Law change your path in life?
Ioana Vieru: First of all, it shaped me as a person: it developed and enhanced my analytical side, it taught me to be patient, to be less impulsive but still spontaneous, to work as a team, to accept the opinions of others, to identify and recognize my limits but also to trust myself and my own forces.
Secondly, it brought into my life some extraordinary people, I was constantly surrounded by people from whom I had things to learn, both things related to the profession and things related to life, intelligent people, with vision but at the same time with their feet on the ground, both among my colleagues and among the clients with whom I worked; and with some of them we have created beautiful friendships that we still cultivate today.
Thirdly, given what kind of law I have done and still do – M&A at NNDKP and now in-house corporate at UiPath – my horizons have been opened in a way that I did not think possible when I chose this path. At NNDKP we always had “on the table” at least two or three of the most important transactions that the press constantly wrote about; in ten years, we have drafted and consolidated due diligence reports on companies in almost all industries – and although the focus was indeed on the legal side, it was a very interesting exercise in other respects because one also needed to understand the functioning of the business in order to identify and qualify risks correctly; on the other hand, the consolidation of due diligence reports and the coordination of transactions involved knowledge not only of corporate aspects – which was and is one of my reference areas – but of all other areas of law involved in due diligence analysis (intellectual property, contracts, protection of personal data, competition law, labour law, etc.). Now, at UiPath, the “race” continues by taking a global position which means that I work with people all over the world, both in my team and outside the team; secondly, the field I run is much broader than I imagined at first –let’s just say that in-house corporate is different from corporate in the law firm and I will detail below; finally, in addition to the actual corporate, we have added to the function I lead other areas over time: labour law, compliance, litigation, competition.
Alina Matei: 10 years in one place, and what place, at NNDKP I think anyone would like to work, is not from here. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy departure. A top three of the best memories, wins.
Ioana Vieru: As a consultant lawyer in M&A, the best moments were when after days (and not infrequently and nights) of negotiations, contract drafting and position and strategy resets we signed the transaction documents and celebrated with the client, received messages of appreciation and thanks. Those were the moments that filled me and charged me when I felt overwhelmed. Another moment that I remember and that we could mention in terms of professional victories could be the moment when in my first year of internship I consolidated my first due diligence report – it was “only” 300 to 400 pages long and I was very proud of the result. Or the times when clients appreciated my work either directly or indirectly, for example by asking me to be personally involved in certain projects.
But if we were to go from the area of professional victories to the area of the most beautiful memories, they involved each time situations or moments with my colleagues: whether it was late sitting at the office and we had moments where we laughed and enjoyed the moment- whether it was the legal discussions where we made funny analogies to relax the atmosphere, or we exchanged tasks and helped each other.
So yes, I’ve been lucky and I’m grateful for the NNDKP years, both for the part of the professional experience, human training, baggage of knowledge, and for the wonderful people I’ve worked with, who have made the hard times easy or the impossible tasks seem possible. I’ve always felt that if I have valuable people around me, we can move the mountains from place to place together. And yes, the departure was not easy particularly for this reason, of the wonderful people I left behind.
Alina Matei: What were the impressions after the first week at UIPATH?
Ioana Vieru: I remember on the one hand that I was overwhelmed by the amount of new information, by new people, by the processes, by how advanced and integrated all the systems used in UiPath were. And that it all seemed like a huge leap, I had the expectation that it wasn’t that different, thinking that in the end it is still a position of attorney. At the same time, however, the feeling of anxiety, newness and overwhelming mingled with a sense of security given by the people around me who were so nice and intelligent and who made my adaptation happen without realizing it.
And to understand a little bit why I’m telling you that I was overwhelmed and that it was a huge leap, I’m going to tell you a few moments that I remember even now as if it happened yesterday. I remember wanting to know the corporate structure of the UiPath group and a colleague said to me: let’s ask Robottorney and I thought I didn’t hear right. I asked who Robotorney was and he told me he was our robot who had answers to all the questions like that and not only – and he was right J. I also remember very well the first videoconferences with my team mates from the USA, the Netherlands or India, and I realized that from that moment on, I had to pay attention to cultural differences and that it is much harder to inspire and maintain team spirit when people are thousands of miles away and in the most different time zones, also coming from different cultures.
Another thing I remember from the first week is that I realized that corporate function in the company meant much more than I originally estimated, and I realized how important it is that the M&A practice in NNDKP gave me exposure to labour law, regulatory issues, special legislation in various areas, litigation issues, competition law and many others that I crossed paths with in UiPath.
I think the conclusion I was left with after the first week was that I would never get bored in UiPath given: the pace of growth, the fact that it is a global position that involves interactions with all countries in the world, the fact that the corporate area actually subsumes somewhere to 8 domains / areas of law that we manage and not least given the field of activity of UiPath which is one of innovation / technology, technology that we also use in the legal team every day.
Alina Matei: What does your job entail? How are your colleagues?
Ioana Vieru: My job involves first coordinating a team of wonderful people with whom we deal with the following areas: (a) corporate and M&A – we take care of all 36 UiPath entities from all over the world as well as the “picture” of the group, we deal with UiPath’s acquisitions of other companies, the funding rounds that UiPath has had, contracts and intra-group relationships, and many other aspects related to the day-to-day operation of the whole group; (b) labour law – we ensure that the UiPath group complies with labour law in all countries where we have a presence (directly or indirectly), we prepare and implement globally the policies and procedures necessary for our employees, very briefly, we assist with the legal part of the Human Resources department in all its endeavors, (c) regulatory aspects –the fact that we operate in the IT area could lead to the idea that this area should be relatively manageable; but the reality contradicts this given that: UiPath is ultimately owned by a US holding company (where we also have key positions in the company and also carry out the main activity), which makes US law applicable at least in some fairly important areas – foreign control , export control, corruption and money laundering, etc.; secondly, we have a significant presence in countries with highly specific and different legislation from European and even American legislation, such as India or Japan; thirdly, the exponential growth that UiPath has experienced and knows, and the direction we are heading requires maximum maturity from this point of view.
At the same time, my job implies interaction with 3 different continents every day, with 3-4 different areas and issues every day, access to the most innovative projects in the field of tech, pride that we are the promoters of many interesting initiatives, especially during the pandemic but not only, pride that we help the UiPath Foundation to fulfill its mission to help children in terms of access to education.
Alina Matei: UIPATH is a technology company. To what extent does the Legal team need to be tech savvy?
Ioana Vieru: We are quite tech savvy actually, but not necessarily because we have to, it just happens once you see how much automation of boring, administrative or volume tasks can change, you want to learn more and more about it to expand the scope and get more free time. And the learning process is not as complicated as I would have imagined initially; I always considered myself a non-technical person and had some anxiety about exposure to new technologies. But in UiPath I followed a few modules that explain the product – the automation software – and how it works, and I was attentive to the discussions of colleagues in the “creation” department, and I soon realized that I know more than I ever thought I would know in this field. And now I’m pretty good at identifying areas that can be automated from legal or even law firms and recommending the right automation product.
Alina Matei: Do the robots that help you have names? What is their limitation?
Ioana Vieru: Yes, they all have names, some have more inspired names – for example Robottorney – while for others we look for more interesting names and until then we use a suggestive name for what they do, for example: Contracting Robot, Regulatory Robot, GDPR Robot, Export Control Robot, etc.
Limitations are much fewer than I originally imagined or in other words what I initially considered to be limitations, were issues resolved along the way; for example the reticence of people in the law area to use an automatic process, limitation that disappears quickly when you show colleagues how the UiPath platform works and how much it help them in every day activities.
On the other hand, there are indeed real limitations, for example our robots cannot replace the human factor, that business oriented sense that helps one solve a specific problem in a pragmatic and efficient way.
Alina Matei: UIPATH has developed robots for law firms. Do you plan to go to the courts of law/prosecutors? I think the clerks would be the happiest.
Ioana Vieru: We have indeed developed robots for law firms but we have also offered some of the robots already used by us because they have also presented interest for the law firms. Perhaps one of the demos that has been most successful among law firms is the one that refers to the automation of the time entries in the various systems used by each law firm. Usually, in UiPath, automation ideas come to us when we have to do things of volume or that we do not like, and I think that’s how we came up with this idea. As a lawyer in the law firm, I remember that one of the least pleasant moments were those when we had to review the activity of the previous week and introduce into the system the description of all activities as they are the basis for issuing invoices to clients. Therefore, as unpleasant as this repetitive and volume activity can be for lawyers, it is as important for law firms; it is also very important that the information entered is correct and complete. The robot that UiPath has created automates this activity in the sense that it takes from emails, calendar and document management systems of law firms the description of the activities carried out by lawyers and inserts them into the system that keeps track of the times/activities. Obviously, a final review is still needed by the lawyer and that in order for automation to work it is necessary to comply with rules for naming emails, calendar entries, sometimes creating templates in the “time tracking” system. Initially, we though that all this would make the idea less popular, and perhaps it was the case in the beginning; but now the law firms that have implemented all this “preliminary cleaning” are grateful and explain how much it helps them in other ways. For example, one of the M&A partners in the global law firms told us that he was reviewing invoices that had hundreds of pages of time entries in multi-jurisdictional projects that he was coordinating – for example, there were cases involving local offices in maybe 15 to 20 countries – and each office had its own rules for naming activities, which could cause the same activity to be described in perhaps ten different ways, confusing the review partner quite a lot. This type of problem – and many others are solved by implementing rules like the ones mentioned above.
Regarding the use of automation in the work of courts of law, what we can say is that UiPath is increasingly present in the public area or in other words that the opening from the public area to automation and digitization is growing. So, it’s probably only a matter of time before we get to this sector and the work of the clerks. What I can add is that the work of the magistrates is one of the activities with the greatest potential to be automated given the large volume of data and information. Digitalization and automation in this area could also help when it comes to access a file / documents – because moving to their electronic form could make access much more easily and remotely and could also make it easier to communicate procedural documents. And, to also address the concerns about the immutability of documents in a file and data sensitivity, we can also connect with the blockchain area that can perfectly complement this landscape.
Last but not least, I would like to make it clear that automation software is not created or designed to replace people or leave them without jobs, but it is about freeing people’s time by automating volume loads and allowing them to focus on value-generating activities. In this respect, UiPath legal automation strategy is based on the following concept “A robot for every lawyer“. I think we might as well adapt the concept and create “A robot for every magistrate.”
Alina Matthew: The most important life lesson for you that was?
Ioana Vieru: That there is nothing more important than the people we surround ourselves with. The most beautiful things I’ve created were due to the fact that I have worked together with talented and intelligent people. The difficulties were always overcome more easily together. Together we learned to laugh even in difficult moments and to have a beautiful and positive atmosphere around us most of the time. I was very lucky from this point of view because life always brought out people in front of me from whom I had a lot to learn and with whom I achieved very beautiful things.
Alina Matei: A message, please, to readers of J.
Ioana Vieru: Be as open as they can to everything that the technology area means because it is the future. And I’m not just talking about the automation area, I’m talking about the idea of digitization in general, the blockchain area, projects created by visionaries like Elon Musk. I think there are some pieces of a puzzle that are being built separately and that when they come together will have a major impact on us and a new era will begin. And I think it should be the mission of each of us to continually educate and train ourselves even outside the comfort areas where we act daily and to adapt our knowledge and legal thinking to this new reality.
Alina Matei: Thank you for talking to me!
Ioana Vieru: Thank you for the interview and for the questions!