Debevoise opens in Moscow

US firm Debevoise & Plimpton has set up an office in Moscow, its second outpost in eastern Europe after Budapest.

The office will be headed by Roswell Perkins, who will transfer from the New York office along with associate Kenneth Schneider.

Another US lawyer Jonathan Hines will split his time between Moscow and New York. Two Russian qualified lawyers Dmitri Nikiforov and Nadia Rendak will also join the practice.

Barry Bryan, Debevoise's managing partner, said: “We have had quite an active practice in Russia and the CIS for a number of years with a team of Russian speaking lawyers in New York.”

Hines, for example, has spent a great deal of time in Russia and the firm has had a long-standing correspondent relationship with a local firm, Business & Law.

The firm meanwhile has been involved in a number of deals, notably in the oil and gas sector, including acting for a major shareholder in the huge Sakhalin oil project.

Bryan said: “We have major commitments to project finance, capital markets, direct investment, investment funds and critical business sectors such as energy, telecommunications and aviation.”

But the firm resisted setting up because, as Bryan noted, “before President Yeltsin's re-election, the uncertainties were too great”.

He said the operating environment had since improved and “the office represents us taking the next step”.

Bryan is not worried that the firm is establishing in a market which many believe to be overcrowded with foreign firms and highly competitive.

He said: “We have been there in some capacity for six or seven years, so we already have a substantial practice.”

He noted that when the firm set up in Budapest there were numerous US law firms on the ground and that did not prevent it being retained on some prime deals.

Perkins, the new Moscow head, served as a presidential appointee under President Dwight D Eisenhower and as counsel to Nelson Rockefeller when he was first elected governor of the state of New York.