Established by Michael Schlichter and Rasmus Agathon in 2013, Virtus Advokater set out to break the mould in the Danish legal marketplace by offering high-quality service without the traditional high overheads and fees.
The founding partners of Virtus Advokater originally met while working together at Danders & More, a mid-size firm in Copenhagen, and, at the same time as their friendship grew, they began to develop a shared vision of a law firm that would “do things a little differently,” Schlichter recalls.
“We wanted to position ourselves at a level where our clients would feel comfortable, rather than appearing to be above them and charging them a fortune to maintain that appearance,” Schlichter explains. “And we wanted to have a more balanced relationship between our professional and personal lives.”
Going from a firm which employed 40 lawyers to one that, today, is made up of just four – Schlichter, Agathon, Niels Juul Mathiassen, who joined them last August and became a partner in May 2018, and Morton Rex Kryger Anderson, who is soon to leave for a position in the insurance industry – has certainly helped Virtus to achieve the first of their objectives.
“Our clients’ interests are our priority,” Schlichter says. “Before, we felt there was too great a distance between lawyer and client. And the fees were too expensive, as people were having to pay for gold-plated doorhandles. We are the complete opposite, we don’t have fancy offices, but we are close to our clients and that means they are happy.”
Comparing the way larger law firms work to something “like a supertanker”, Schlichter insists that smaller players, like Virtus, are much more manoeuvrable and better suited to serve the needs of small and medium-sized companies. Much of their new business comes from word-of-mouth recommendations, something Schlichter is very grateful for: “The ball has rolled in our direction,” he says.
The firm started with just a handful of clients but, fuelled by strong demand in the local real-estate market, has carved out a niche for itself in conveyancing, serving both private and corporate buyers and sellers in the residential and commercial sectors. Five years on, Schlichter estimates that property transactions and company law cases, which he personally specialises in, as well as insolvency proceedings and litigation – ably handled by Agathon and Mathiassen – represent around 70% of Virtus’ overall billing.
Just a year after its establishment, the firm moved offices to Frederiksberg, a proudly independent municipality which lies in the heart of Copenhagen. One of just eight firms located in the conservative and comparatively upmarket neighbourhood, Schlichter says it has benefited from locals’ “unexpected” desire to do business with those in their own area.
That same year, Virtus was recommended to TEN, the European Network, by a colleague from their former firm, and joined in 2014. While most of their shared work to date has been done in collaboration with the Swedish member, Sylwan och Fenger-Krog, Schlichter highlights the value of being able to offer trusted contacts throughout Europe to his clients from across Denmark: “We know the people and that they can handle cases in the best way possible,” he notes. “If we have a doubt, we can pick up the ‘phone and get answers to questions that lead us in the right direction.”
Likewise, Schlichter says that being part of TEN has helped with Virtus’s visibility in Google, citing an example where a Canadian client found them online thanks to the firm’s membership of the network. As the new Secretary of the Board, since May 2018, he will play a key role in TEN’s drive to continuing growing by a new member every year to cover all of the countries in the European Union.
Schlichter knew he wanted to become a lawyer in the fifth grade – inspired by the TV series LA Law, he admits – and received his Master’s degree in 2003 before being admitted to the bar in 2008. But, as he and Agathon decided when they founded their firm, life should be about more than work. With five children under the age of 11 between them – Agathon has three, Schlichter two – he says: “Our kids are a priority now; we can always work a little more later.”
Both men also find time to run together before work and have competed in races, albeit at different distances – “Rasmus does marathons, while I do the half,” Schlichter smiles. Sharing the same priorities while doing things differently has really paid off for Virtus, he says: “It’s like a marriage; we’re stuck together for better or worse. It has worked better than I could ever have hoped.”