Cameron McKenna loses Moscow lawyer to US firm as it unveils details of Euro alliance

Cameron McKenna's Moscow office has lost litigation lawyer Sergey Wolfson to US firm Chadbourne & Parke.

Wolfson's departure follows five months on from a purge at the Moscow office.

Three Russian lawyers were made redundant in November and December. They included Tatiana Vinogradova, the lawyer who headed the office from when it opened in 1993 until 1995.

The other lawyers made redundant are Andrei Deev and Olga Baibakova. Another lawyer, Alexander Kudryavtsev, relocated to London.

Camerons' Moscow office now has seven lawyers – half the number it had a year ago.

Insolvency specialist Wolfson joined Cameron McKenna 14 months ago and joins Chadbournes on 4 May.

Wolfson says: “The reason I'm resigning is a business decision to explore new opportunities with a new law firm.

“I will specialise in litigation and insolvency. Those areas are moving the market forward for lawyers, so it is a new place and the same work.”

Commenting on the redundancies, John Hammond, resident partner at Camerons' Moscow office, says: “We aren't the only people who have done that and we won't be the last.”

Elena Kirillova, head of the firm's CIS group, says: “When we considered the redundancies we looked at which lawyers had the broadest range of experience, not just within Russia but in terms of working in different jurisdictions within the CIS.

“We are not undertaking any other redundancy programme elsewhere in the CIS and we certainly don't plan any more in Moscow. It was a direct response to the Russian crisis.”

The Lawyer revealed last week that Freshfields had sacked three Russian lawyers and 10 support staff in its Moscow office.

See news analysis, page 10.

Cameron McKenna has finally celebrated the official launch of its European alliance after months of speculation although rival firms are questioning its ability to make the venture work.

Details of the 1,400-lawyer, 31-office alliance, which was first revealed in The Lawyer, have been unveiled by the firm in a Berlin launch. It says it aims to create a single European firm by 2003.

Initially the alliance, to be called CMS, will include six European firms, five of which have had an association with Camerons for some years.

The seventh firm is Austrian practice Strommer Reich-Rohrwig Karasek Hainz which is the seventh biggest firm in the country.

But Camerons biggest coup may create the biggest headaches, claim industry insiders.

In Germany, its alliance partner will be Hasche Sigle Eschenlohr Peltzer, which has been created out of two firms – Sigle Loose Schmidt-Diemitz, the tenth biggest German firm, and Hasche Eschenlohr Peltzer Reisenkampff Fischotter, ranked 21st. Hasche Sigle will become the fifth largest German firm.

However, a partner from the German office of a UK firm, who did not want to be named, questions the wisdom in Camerons' choice of German partner.

“Although they are both bloody good firms, which together will form a top five firm, you have to be careful when you are bringing into a merger two firms that are already merging in Germany.

“Cameron McKenna will need lots of caution, patience and humour.”

A London-based senior partner of a top city firm questions whether Cameron McKenna is big enough to support such a venture.

“If a firm as big and as well known as Linklaters is supposedly struggling to make its alliance work, then Cameron McKenna, with its much lower profits and profile, is going to have to work even harder.

“At the end of the day, for the members of the alliance, they have the Linklaters name as an incentive for hanging in there and making it work. Will the Cameron McKenna name have the same effect? I don't know.”

The alliance also includes Tisell & Co in Sweden, Derks Star Busmann Hanotiau in the Netherlands and Belgium, and Schluter & Hald in Denmark. There are ongoing negotiations with French, Spanish and Italian firms to join the alliance.

Camerons' senior partner Bill Shelford says: “This is an integral part of Cameron McKenna's strategy to meet client demands for integrated, transnational services.”