The article describes the recent trends on the Russian legal market and position of global law firms which have traditionally dominated the corporate market in Russia and the CIS. LB assesses the chances of those domestic firms taking on the internationals at their own game.
…“I think if you are an international investor entering the Russian market you certainly need advisers with local connectivity and local knowledge who understand the Russian culture, and the regulatory background and at the same time are attuned to the governance and compliance culture of Western multinational companies,” says Margaret Jordan, European general counsel at the global food manufacturer Mars, Incorporated.
In the case of Mars, which has been operating in the market for over 20 years, the legal advice has largely come from Andrey Goltsblat, managing partner at Goltsblat BLP, which won International Office of the Year at the 2010 Legal Business Awards.
While Goltsblat has been working under the Berwin Leighton Paisner banner since 2009, his background is very much local, having previously been a name partner at the leading domestic firm Pepeliaev, Goltsblat & Partners (now Pepeliaev Group).
…Two years down the line since his practice merged with BLP, Goltsblat is aware of both the benefits of a merger and the difficulties independent Russian firms face. 'For the Russian law firm it is very hard work,' he says. 'Psychologically, the clients do need to be confident that the lawyers have background and experience, which a big branded law firm can provide.'
He adds: 'The client's perception has changed since we merged. They now come to us to handle their cross-border M&A transactions in the whole rather than just the Russian side. Now all our M&A deals are direct instructions from the client. It is a completely different market position and that is what we aimed for when we merged. The major challenge is not to lose the Russian side of the brand and at the same time become truly international.'
It is perhaps telling that, despite the fact that Goltsblat's Moscow office is fully part of BLP, the Goltsblat name has remained. As Goltsblat points out: 'It's one firm, but we're just branded for the Russian market.' Clearly in some parts of the domestic market the cult of the individual still applies to certain Russian lawyers, whose names carry more weight than the London firm they have tied up with.
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