Herbert Smith defies exodus from Russia

Herbert Smith will open its Moscow office in June, as first revealed in The Lawyer (15 February).

The two-partner, six-lawyer office will be headed by energy partner Alan Jowett, head of the central and east European group.

The office will focus on energy and natural resources at first. The Lawyer understands the initial reason for opening the office is to serve existing Herbert Smith clients with interests in Russia.

Jowett says: “We have been greatly encouraged by our clients' continuing positive attitude to the CIS, and the instructions we continue to receive. Our practice has reached a point where opening in the CIS makes sense for us.”

Jowett will work with Sergei Baranchenkov, an associate at White & Case's Moscow office, who joins as a partner. Baranchenkov specialises in project finance, securities and mergers and acquisitions.

Litigation lawyer Dominic Pellew and Tim Slater, a banking associate, will move to Moscow from the firm's London office, and will be joined by two local Russian associates. The firm will soon have 12 Russian-speaking lawyers available to its CIS practice.

Herbert Smith is opening in Moscow just as other foreign firms are cutting back on their operations. Freshfields and Cameron McKenna have both made staff cuts in Russia as a result of the Russian economic crisis (The Lawyer 3 May, 26 April).

Commenting on Herbert Smith's decision to buck the trend, Allen & Overy's Moscow managing partner Chris Roberts says: “If they are coming here just to cast their boat on the waters, then it's very brave.

But if they are coming for a particular client or industry focus, I can see why they'd have one or two people here. They won't have the trouble building that the rest of us had.”