On July 8, 2015, CEE Legal Matters reported that Clifford Chance announced that it would be exiting the Ukrainian market (reported on by CEE Legal Matters on July 8, 2015), and that its Kyiv office would operate going forward as an independent law firm – Redcliffe Partners.
Yesterday we reported that the change had been completed, and that Olexiy Soshenko – the former head of finance at Clifford Chance Kyiv – had taken over as Managing Partner. The firm’s leadership also includes Partner Dmytro Fedoruk – former head of M&A at Clifford Chance Kyiv – and new additions Rob Shantz and Sergiy Gryshko.
CEE Legal Matters talked to Olexiy Soshenko and Dmytro Fedoruk about the change and about their plans for the future.
Can you offer our readers some insights as to Clifford Chance's decision to exit Ukraine? Do you believe an independent local firm is better equipped to handle the realities of the Ukrainian market these days?
D.F.: The Ukrainian market is unique – never more obviously so than at the moment. The conditions on the ground are truly better suited for an independent and flexible firm. Clifford Chance looks to focus on its global strategic priorities whilst operating in Ukraine through Redcliffe Partners.
How will this new-found flexibility be reflected in the new firm?
O.S.: I think it will allow us to respond to market realities more swiftly. For example, we are very excited to launch a dispute resolution and international arbitration practice.
Why could that not be pursued in the past?
O.S.: Dispute resolution is seldom perceived as a strength and core practice for global law firms, whose overall focus is on big-ticket deals and transactions
D.F.: It’s probably worth pointing out that international firms in general have historically avoided litigation/disputes practices in Ukraine, which tend to be a lot more local-centric. It is only a new trend that some of them are turning their attention towards building such practices.
By this point, you’ve had some time to put efforts towards the new structure. How are things developing?
D.F.: Setting up the right team is the critical first step and we’ve made several key hires to support it.
As mentioned before, Redcliffe now offers a dedicated Dispute Resolution practice group, led by Sergiy Gryshko, who has recently joined Redcliffe's team as a Partner. Sergiy joins from CMS Cameron McKenna and has 13 years of experience in Dispute Resolution.
In addition to Sergiy Gryshko, Rob Shantz, a U.S. attorney with more than 27 years of experience - including approximately 19 years in Central and Eastern Europe – is also joining Redcliffe as a Partner and the Head of the Corporate Practice. Rob most recently was the Head of the Legal Practice at PwC Ukraine, and, prior to that, was a tax and legal partner with KPMG Ukraine. Before relocating to the CEE region, Rob practiced for several years with corporate law firms in the U.S.
Zoryana Sozanska-Matviychuk is joining as a Counsel and will specialize in M&A and private equity. Zoryana has more than 10 years of experience with leading international law firms in Ukraine and abroad and has advised on many complex M&A, private equity and venture capital transactions, primarily during her time with the Kyiv, Sydney, and London offices of Baker & McKenzie.
Dmytro Orendarets, admitted in both Ukraine and New York, was promoted to Counsel. Dmytro worked for more than 7 years in the Kyiv, London, and New York offices of Clifford Chance, where he specialized in banking & finance and debt restructuring.
What will your relationship be with Clifford Chance going forward? Will the new firm, Redcliffe Partners, continue to work closely with the former international colleagues similar to Lakatos Koves & Partners in Hungary?
D.F.: We have just recently finalized all the details, and as I mentioned, Clifford Chance is still keen to work in the Ukrainian market while benefiting from the flexibility of a local independent firm on the ground. We’ve set up a 'best friends' arrangement and we’ll continue to cooperate on that basis going forward.
Is that relationship going to be an exclusive one?
D.F.: No, it won’t be an exclusive one since both sides will benefit from the flexibility that a non-exclusive arrangement offers but there is a strong desire from both Clifford Chance and us to work together as much as possible, especially on big-ticket M&A and corporate projects we’ve been working on to date.
O.S.: Indeed, what I think plays a big part for us is to see the support that is voiced and demonstrated by the Clifford Chance global team, with Jared Grubb [who will be relocating within the Clifford Chance network during 2016] and other Partners being truly supportive in this transition.
D.F.: That support is reflected in a number of ways but one good example of it is that our lawyers will still benefit from the international know-how exchange and will continue to participate in the Clifford Chance Academy to strengthen the links between the two firms as well as ensure that we will keep to the same standard of service clients expect from us.
December 1, 2015, marked the official Day 1 of Redcliffe Partners. What parts of preparation for that date did you find the most challenging, and what bits, if any, were a surprise?
D.F.: There’s a great deal of work that goes into a transition like this, yes, from communicating with our clients to planning strategically for our future growth but the only bits I would say are truly challenging are not related to the firm per se as much as related to the systems and processes. Small things from re-setting up phone lines (previously calling through London) and other systems need to go independent from London.
O.S.: Yes, I’d say that it is really our IT that had the biggest headaches in the transition – but even on that front, Clifford Chance has been very supportive.
What's the first point on the agenda going forward?
D.F.: If we’ve done everything right, it should be business as usual. Clients have been communicated with, the team has settled in, the new brand is developed – really, unless we missed anything huge, and I like to believe we didn’t, it should be a regular day working on client matters.
O.S.: That was the whole point of the extensive planning and work in the last few months – to make sure that we keep disruptions to an absolute minimum. We haven’t yet planned for a cork of champagne popping to celebrate the new name but aside from something like that to mark the day, business as usual is the name of the game.
Presumably you've also been busy communicating the upcoming change to existing clients. What has been the feedback you've received to date?
D.F.: Yes, we’ve been busy on that front ever since mid-summer and, by now that process is pretty much wrapped up. In my view, our existing clients are generally convinced that the same service level will be in place and they expect little real change in our working with them.
O.S.: At the same time many have expressed an interest and excitement over our plans to launch a dispute resolution practice, as many companies in the market need support on that front these days.
What about your younger team members? With a strong international brand generally playing a big role in employer branding, how has the team received the news that the team will go forward under a new name?
O.S.: I think most care more about the type of work and the team than anything else, and neither of those will change as a result of the new brand. We’re happy to have a solid team in place at the moment that shows real promise.
Are you planning on developing your offering further?
O.S.: We aim to grow into a full-service independent team. We are not planning extensive lateral hires further than the ones concluded at the moment but are looking to grow organically on the mid-term. We’re excited to benefit from the flexibility and ease of decision-making that our new set-up offers and look forward to leveraging it to its full potential to better cater to our clients needs.
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