Moscow office builds up Lovells' eastern muscle

City firm Lovell White Durrant is to strengthen its Central and Eastern European practice by becoming the latest Western firm to open for business in Moscow.

The practice was given the go-ahead by the Russian Ministry of Justice earlier this month, and plans to be up and and running as soon as May this year.

Initially, the new office will be staffed by four lawyers – two Russian attorneys and two solicitors.

Daniel Gogek, who will join Lovells in May from Freshfields, will take the role of the resident lawyer in charge in Moscow. But the office will also fall under the responsibility of partner and head of the firm's Central and Eastern European group, Christopher Smith.

Smith, who established the firm's successful Beijing and Prague offices, will put this experience to good use by concentrating much of his time over the next few months in Moscow to launch the new office.

Smith dismissed the notion that Lovells had missed the boat by setting up in Moscow in the wake of the several Western firms that are already based there.

He said: “We've had a Russian practice for more than 20 years. There is a Russian practice based in Prague with five Russian-speaking lawyers, and there are six partners in London whose existing Russian work will be greatly enhanced by the new office.

“Other firms who are already in Moscow certainly experienced turbulent times when it would have been difficult to cover overheads.

“They've been through a baptism of fire. If they have had a head start, they will have had to pay for it.”

Dr Irena Edwards, who played an instrumental role in establishing Lovells' Prague office and is now the London-based solicitor in charge of coordinating McKenna & Co's Prague, Warsaw and Budapest offices, said Lovells' decision to open up in Moscow now “demonstrates the increase in foreign investor interest in the Russian market”.

US firm Coudert Brothers has added a further five lawyers to its Moscow office, taking the number of lawyers on its staff to 15, including the partner in charge, Bruce Bean.

“Moscow is fantastic for us,” said Bean. “Our office is constrained only by the number of attorneys we can squeeze in.”