Herbert Smith snaps up Salans’ Moscow disputes head

Herbert Smith has hired Moscow-based disputes partner Alexei Panich from Salans to help fill the gap left by the departure of the firm’s Moscow disputes head in June.

Dmitry Kurochkin, the former head of Herbert Smith’s Moscow litigation arbitration practice and employment and group head of the CEMEA (Continental Europe Middle East and Africa) litigation practice, left the firm for Dechert in June, barely a year after he was promoted to the role (21 June 2012).

He had replaced Paris-based partner Denis Chemla, who had only stayed a month in the same role before quitting in May 2011 to jump ship to Allen & Overy with fellow litigators Michael Young and Erwan Poisson (27 May 2011).

Panich, who was the head of Salans’ Moscow dispute resolution practice and co-head of the Russian taxation group, joined Herbert Smith last week. He joined Herbert Smith in 2001 and was promoted to partner in 2007. Prior to that, he spent five years practising as a tax lawyer at KPMG’s Moscow branch.

Panich is not the only high-profile departure from Salans in recent months. In June the managing partner of the firm’s Shanghai office, Bernd-Uwe Stucken, and fellow Shanghai corporate partner Wei Liu, both left the firm, leaving Salans with no partners based in China (6 June 2012).

That same month Herbert Smith lost Shanghai partner Simon Meng, leaving the firm’s Shanghai office with only two partners (25 June 2012).

The departures come as Salans is in the advanced stages of negotiating a £760m merger with SNR Denton. Approval of the merger is expected later this month (22 August 2012).

Meanwhile Herbert Smith is gearing up for a merger with Australian firm Freehills in October (28 June 2012).

Panich’s appointment brings the Moscow office’s dispute resolution team up to 12, which includes disputes partner Vladimir Melnikov, of counsel Francesca Albert and nine other fee-earners. Panich and Melnikov will co-head the office’s disputes team.

Panich’s expertise in tax-related disputes will also see him work alongside Oleg Konnov, the head of the firm’s Moscow tax practice, on a number of cases.

Salans’ overall Russian litigation and arbitration practice will continue to be led by partner Mikhail Ivanov, who heads up a team of 13 lawyers across the firm’s offices in Moscow and St.Petersburg. Marat Mouradov, who joined the firm in February from Baker & McKenzie (1 February 2012) will take over as head of the Moscow office’s disputes team.

Commenting on Panich’s appointment, Allen Hanen, managing partner of Herbert Smith’s Moscow office, said in a statement that Panich’s arrival would augment the further development of the firm’s global dispute resolution practice while his tax expertise would further strengthen the tax practice in the region.

Salans’ Moscow managing partner Florian Schneider commented: “We wish Alexei good luck with his new endeavour. Salans’ Russian litigation and arbitration practice, which has four partners and 10 associates and counsel, remains one of the leading dispute resolution practices in Russia. The team will continue to be led by St. Petersburg partner, Mikhail Ivanov, and we will be actively looking to expand the team in the future to meet the growing needs of our Russian and international clients.”

Panich added: “Herbert Smith’s disputes name is highly regarded internationally and I am attracted to the prospect of joining this formidable practice with a team of such high calibre. I look forward to working with this group of outstanding specialists, particularly Vladimir and Francesca, to further expand our already very successful practice regionally and globally. “