Firms go on Moscow recruitment drive to counter skills shortage

A SERIOUS shortage of experienced lawyers is taking the shine off the rapid growth of international law firms in Russia.

Managing partner of Baker & McKenzie's Moscow office Paul Melling said there were about 40 Western offices in the city and they all had recruitment problems.

He said there was a shortage of bilingual lawyers with enough experience in Russia.

“Many law firms don't have their expats for more than two to three years,” he said.

“There's a constant recruitment cycle.”

The senior consultant with legal recruitment consultants Quarry Dougall, Christopher Sweeney, has noticed an increased demand for both US and UK lawyers in Moscow over the past three years.

He said the demand for novice and experienced lawyers had accelerated, particularly in the past year, indicating that the demand was not being met by traditional means of recruitment such as word of mouth or transfers within the firm.

“Increasingly, lawyers are taking more pro-active steps,” he said.

A US-based firm last week advertised through Quarry Dougall in the London press for a senior solicitor or attorney “to take a leading role” in the continued expansion of its Russian practice.

Managing partner of Clifford Chance's Moscow office, Tony Williams, said the office was growing by 30 to 40 per cent a year. “Recruitment is perhaps slowing the rate of expansion but we are expanding anyway,” he said.

“We are actively recruiting at the moment, both Russian lawyers and expats, but the pool of suitable people is relatively small.”

He said the first few months of this year were the busiest in the office's history and he anticipated another five lawyers joining the 21-lawyer office within the next few months.

“We could develop quicker if we had more people,” he said.

The managing partner of US firm Le Boeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae's Moscow office, Brian Zimbler, said the 10-lawyer office would double in size within the next two years.

He said the firm had recruited three attorneys within the past year and had taken on more office space.

Managing partner of US practice White & Case's Moscow office, Maryann Gashi-Butler, said the 12-lawyer office is expected to grow to about 18 lawyers by the end of the year. This included three White & Case lawyers transferring from other offices as well as three Russian lawyers the firm plans to hire.

“If we brought in seven lawyers tomorrow, within a month they would all be busy,” she said.