Linklaters & Alliance shuts down St Petersburg office

Linklaters & Alliance is shutting its St Petersburg office as it joins the long line of foreign firms downsizing their presence in Russia.

The firm is in the process of transferring three of the five lawyers from the St Petersburg branch to its substantially larger Moscow office.

Managing partner of the office Dominic Sanders has already moved. Sergei Mashkarenko, a one and a half year qualified corporate specialist, has been made redundant along with six support staff.

Linklaters moved Sanders to the Moscow office in anticipation of an increase in instructions. But it was unable to find a replacement, prompting it to pool its resources and move the staff to Moscow. Sanders says: “When we looked externally for a head of a Linklaters office it was a difficult thing to find, and it is a small office.”

Despite its closure, Sanders claims that the St Petersburg branch had successfully sustained itself in terms of work, considering that the office was set up in June 1998, just two months before the Russian crisis.

Sanders adds: “It is quite unusual to have more than one office in one jurisdiction.”

US firm McDermott Will & Emery closed its St Petersburg office earlier this year. But the greatest economic strife for law firms has been in Moscow, where Eversheds closed its office in August. Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy followed suit in September, with head of the office Holly Nielsen moved to Debevoise & Plimpton in December (The Lawyer, 20 November).

Sanders says that Linklaters is seeing the resurgence of work in a number of practice areas.

He says: “We see that the market has taken a very evident and defined upturn. There is interest from inward investors on the strategic investments, a little bit of M&A and capital markets side.”

An increase in capital markets work would be a significant boost for the firm after it transferred securities and banking partner Philip Charlton to its Polish branch in July.

Sources say that the decision to move Charlton out of the region was connected to the dearth of capital markets work in Russia.