International report

Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners, the largest domestic law firm in Russia, has its sights set on opening in London.

As reported by The Lawyer (20 March), the firm is hoping to build its presence through barristers rather than solicitors. Managing partner Dimitry Afanasiev said his firm had decided to pursue the non-traditional route in order to avoid competing with City law firms, which provide a good source of referral work into Russia.

Egorov, a four-partner firm founded in 1993, has based itself on a Western firm approach to client relations and firm management. It has proved successful, making the firm the largest in the country and bringing with it plenty of government and media attention.

Afanasiev studied law in both Russia and the US and trained at Philadelphia-based US firm Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen. From 1993 to 1999 he headed the Philadelphia office of Egorov, which remains a small office for the firm.

“Philadelphia is some 40 per cent cheaper than New York. I have friends and clients there and it’s only one hour to New York or 90 minutes to Washington DC,” he says.

Back home, in its quest to remain the dominant Russian firm, Egorov is considering opening offices outside Moscow and St Petersburg.

“We’re having a strong internal debate about being national in a geographical sense,” Afanasiev says. “But we must be careful if we expand that we don’t drop our quality.”

The Samara and Urals regions are next on the list for expansion, but Afanasiev says “clients still prefer to come to Moscow” but that “maybe this will be different in two years”.

Playing politics is still a big part of the Russian regime and Egorov uses its connections with the Russian government to lobby on behalf of its Western clients.

“We’ve found that by doing some pro bono work for the government, we can get access to people higher up the ladder. Having access and being able to talk to them can make a big difference to our paying clients,” Afanasiev says.

While the firm is planning a London opening, it is planning on drawing on its core practice area of litigation and dispute resolution by linking with barristers, rather than opening a practising solicitors’ office.

Egorov maintains a referral relationship with a number of UK and US firms and has ruled out a London opening of a solicitor’s office so as to keep the referrals flowing.

“We’ve made a point of not having any special relationships with any firm because we want to be able to work with everybody,” Afansiev says. “When we pitch to clients, we say, ‘don’t engage a British firm with an office in Moscow, engage the best lawyers in each jurisdiction’.

“We believe we’re the best lawyers to advise in Russia.”

Managing Partner: Dimitry Afanasiev
Turnover: $20m (£10.7m)
Total number of partners: Four
Total number of lawyers: 64
Main practice areas: Litigation and arbitration, tax and finance, IP, corporate services
Key clients: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Russian Aluminium, Sibir Energy, Archangel Trawler Fleet, Eurocement Group
Number of offices: Three
Locations: Moscow, St Petersburg, Philadelphia