“Everyone competes with everybody”: Maxim Kulkov in an interview for Law360 on how the Russian legal market has changed over the past year
The events of February 2022 led to international law firms closing their offices in Russia, but most of their operations remain under new names.
In a conversation with Law360, managing partner of KK&P Trial Lawyers Maxim Kulkov spoke about how the departure of foreign colleagues has influenced the Russian legal services market.
Maxim believes that only a minority of partners and associates relocated to other jurisdictions after the big international companies closed their operations in Russia. Most stayed put in the country and set up new outfits.
Sometimes “it’s kind of like a hidden continuation of provision of legal services in Russia through, I would say, like a kind of independent Russian law firm,” said Maxim.
He notes that BigLaw’s departure has affected the entire legal services market in Russia. The era of a clear demarcation of work between “RuLFs” and “ILFs” is over: “There is even more competition because now everyone competes with everybody.”
According to the managing partner, the departure of some foreign firms was not unproblematic: “Many clients were quite offended by the behaviour of the big international law firms,” Maxim said, adding that they discontinued their services almost overnight.
The same is true of some of the former partners and lawyers: “They used to work for international law firms for 10 or 20 years, and suddenly they received the notice that from next month you are not so anymore, OK, we’ll pay you maybe like six months’ salary, but just because you are Russian, you are fired,” Kulkov said.
But, although the divorce of some BigLaw companies and their Russia-based partners was not always amicable, some maintain good relationships with their former employers, according to Maxim.
Speaking about the future of the Russian legal market, the managing partner does not hide his concerns: “Maybe in a couple of years, Russia will be like North Korea and so what’s the point of growing your business … it is still quite risky.”
Comments were also provided by: Alexander Gendlin (independent consultant), Vladislav Zabrodin (Capital Legal Services).
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