Couderts Moscow partner defects to Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance has pulled off a major coup in Moscow by hiring the managing partner of US rivals Coudert Brothers' Moscow office.

Bruce Bean, a US qualified international corporate lawyer, will join Clifford Chance's five partner and 51-lawyer office as a partner.

He will bring a high-profile US and Russian energy industry-orientated practice to the firm – an area that Clifford Chance's finance dominated office readily admits it wants to expand into.

Bean is the current head of the American Chamber of Commerce and also advises the influential Investor Protection Working Group – set up by US vice-president Al Gore and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in May 1997 – on capital markets matters.

John Holmes, managing partner of Clifford Chance's Moscow office, said he was expanding the corporate practice to allow the office to handle the expected boom in investment from international and domestic clients in the Russian oil and gas industry.

However, the cost of maintaining a large expat-staffed office in Moscow is high and in the current atmosphere of political uncertainty Clifford Chance is taking a gamble.

In January, Coudert Brothers took over the Moscow and Almaty offices of Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton & Scheetz, but this increase in critical mass – a factor that many observers cite as a key contributor to success in Russia – was not enough to retain Bean.

Couderts has appointed partner Charles Keefe to replace Bean and will send out US-trained Russian counsel Larisa Afanasyeva in the summer.

Keefe said: “Bruce has been good for our visibility as he is a public figure in Moscow and the press. But we rely heavily on US oil and gas clients, relationships that pre-date Bruce, so there are very few of the office's clients that are his.”