CMS Cameron McKenna has launched a series of raids on local rivals to bolster its new Ukraine office. The raids come as UK firms circle the former Soviet state looking to take advantage of an underlawyered but buoyant emerging market.
Camerons will be the first City firm with an on-the-ground presence in Kiev when it launches there this month, but a number of UK firms have also been contemplating Ukraine launches.
Clifford Chance managing partner David Childs denied rumours of an imminent launch, but admitted: "It's on my radar. A number of our clients are doing an increasing amount of work there."
Camerons is in the midst of a hiring frenzy, taking on more lateral partners in one week than during the past three years. It signed up seven new partners last week, the bulk of them for its Ukraine office. Linklaters' former Central and Eastern Europe managing partner Nick Eastwell commented: "Ukraine has 65 million people and it's a vast country full of natural resources. There are signs of real sustainable growth there, so law firms are naturally looking at it.
"Of the old CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] countries beyond Russia, it's really the one to have, along with Kazakhstan.
"Personally I think we should [be opening in Kiev], but I don't think we will be in the near future given everything else we're doing. It's a question of priorities."
Camerons raided Baker & McKenzie, Chadbourne & Parke, local boutique Levenets Maciw & Partners and Ukraine's justice ministry for, respectively, corporate partner Olexander Martinenko, corporate partner Adam Mycyk, name partners Oleksiy Levenets and Christina Maciw, and corporate partner Daniel Bilak.
The office will launch with another 13 associates and regional corporate head Helen Rodwell will relocate for six months, as first reported by The Lawyer (9 July).
Camerons' hiring spree is also spreading to London, with Reed Smith Richards Butler head of immigration Caron Pope returning to the firm she trained at and Dundas & Wilson funds partner Gawain Hughes also moving to the firm, although Camerons declined to comment on the latter move.