Quotation: “I want to teach my students that the most important thing is to go your own way within the law.”
Dr Matjaž Nahtigal is a law professor at the Faculty of Management of the University of Primorska (Koper, Slovenia). In 2001, he defended his doctoral dissertation at the Harvard Law School in the United States. He teaches business, status and contractual law and is a leading specialist in the field of ownership structures. He also comments on topical issues of contemporary domestic and international policies in various media resources.
What knowledge do we need today in the field of law?
The knowledge and, of course, the experience in international financial and tax law, certain specialized fields of European law, the knowledge of high quality management of public institutions.
There is a growing gap between professionals working in the international market and few experienced professionals of the public sector in various important sectors. To avoid misunderstanding, I should mention that the Slovenian public sector, for example, in relation to health care, public finances, justice, and European affairs, certainly has highly qualified specialists. However, the number of such specialists is too small. They do not cooperate with each other to achieve the so much needed high level of public sector management. In addition, many of them leave to work abroad. If we add to this the obvious presence and activities of corporate groups, politicization and lack of a comprehensive social development strategy, we will see that we have serious structural problems.
You obtained a PhD degree in Harvard, USA. Do you believe that Slovenia should take an example from them in terms of system management? Perhaps at some concrete examples?
The United States has developed a modern legal system, but the system also has significant weaknesses in the control of large financial institutions, what we could observe during the period after the Lehman Brothers collapse.
A good example of reorganization was the federal state government intervention in the US automobile industry—namely, in the work of the General Motors and Chrysler Companies as part of the Detroit’s “Big Three”. Weighty assistance from the state government, restructuration under the auspices of the arbitral tribunal within a relatively short period of time, and General Motors moving to a new level—all this is a good example of the American legal and financial sensitivity, as well as a pragmatic willingness to state intervention, when it is reasonable. The cooperation between the public and private sectors can contribute to a successful restructuring, improved productivity and technological innovations, as well as the strengthening of international cooperation.
We yet cannot afford anything like that in Slovenia as we work under substantially different economic conditions—a large amount of illiquid investments, a significant embarrassment within the relations of owners and shareholders, a shaky capital market, and the newly created institutions. Thus, the restructuration of Slovenian companies lasts much longer than we would like.
Why do you think the legal knowledge is so important in the business world today?
Since the regulatory framework becomes more demanding, the impact of legal liability and risk increases. The undue control over the management, the lack of compliance with legal liability, excessive entanglement of the interests of owners and managers as well as frequent conflicts of interest between them as the most important causes of many established economic problems in Slovenia are left in the past.
If we want to move from a long-term stagnation to structural reforms of high quality, we will need to ensure that the regulatory functions and responsibilities well designed in terms of theory and norms as well as the appropriate reporting system could be effectively implemented in practice.
You teach law at the Faculty of Management of the University of Primorska. How do managers can contribute to the supremacy of statute law?
By searching for a balance between the business risks and the legal responsibility for the decisions taken. There are many requirements for today’s managers. The expectations from their work are often contradictory and mutually exclusive. It is therefore important to know where the fine line runs between the independent business assessment and legal responsibility, between the well-being of society and the privileges of the individuals concerned, a balance between short-term and long-term success of a successful sustainable development, optimal balance between the costs control and the long-term investment in the development.
What do you think the students should be, who choose to study law for management? What should be their interests, skills and qualities?
The desirable qualities of a personality comprise high motivation, commitment to hard work, discipline, integrity, fairness, and ingenuity. Education is intensive. For postgraduate training programs, this means that the work is held in small groups, so the teachers are really able to pay attention to each student. We try to encourage students in all areas and, if possible, to constantly adapt the curriculum to their needs and interests.
Would you like to emphasize on anything specific at the end of our conversation?
I would also note the openness of the Faculty of Management, its commitment to new and modern programs and didactic methods, where students are an equal subject of the learning process. At the Faculty, we strive to create the necessary conditions, so that our graduates could launch successful careers after completing their studies and constantly share data and knowledge. We believe that knowledge should be above all. We teach how to acquire new competencies in practice, so that graduates could realize themselves within the context of the modern dynamic society of the XXI century.