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Lawyers in the new era
Ilyashev & Partners law firm was founded back in 1997. Since then so much has drastically changed in this country, with legislation undergoing crucial ‘remakes’ along with frequent reshuffles of state power. Ilyashev & Partners has successfully survived all lawmaking perturbations and now represents the interests of over 300 local and foreign clients, specializing in corporate, tax and labour law, debt recovery, litigation, international arbitration, etc. Senior partners Mikhail Ilyashev and Roman Marchenko are confident that the company is all set to enter a new stage of Ukrainian legislative history. Used to it…
Your firm has been developing along with the young Ukrainian state. How was it?
M.I.: The history of Ilyashev & Partners dates back to early 1997. We had a ‘bland print’ start — no clients, no telephone calls, no income. By that time I studied at the Institute of International Relations of Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University, I was an A-student and didn’t shirk studies. In fact, everything had started much earlier, as I harboured the idea of launching my private law firm since I was a first-year student. I’ve always worked only for myself…
R.M.: I studied at the same institute, but since the second year of studies I had worked in a law firm as a junior legal expert. Thus when Ilyashev & Partners emerged, I had had two years of law practice behind.
What about your first clients?
R.M.: We are very proud to say that our first clients are still with us, since so many years… Now there are over 300 clients in our list.
Reputation is the core of your business. What is your recipe for having a good name?
M.I.: Our prescription is maintaining four main principles of our law firm…
• we approach our Client’s problem as if it were our own;
• we remember that each Client is unique;
• we understand the ABCs of our Client’s business;
• we do not have the right to make mistakes.
R.M.: We do our work properly and on time — this is our time-proved recipe.
You two are very strong personalities. How have you managed to stick together since 1997 and have you ever had professional conflicts?
R.M.: The goal of our work as partners and our common teamwork is to satisfy our clients’ needs. Thus, there have never been deep conflicts in our professional work. Of course, during 8 years of work “under the same roof” we’ve had different approaches to professional solutions, but those differences have always been tactical rather than strategic.
With such a degree of mutual understanding you must share not only work, but also free time… Do you spend holidays together?
M.I.: As we need to control our business 365 days a year, the problem is not understanding, but lack of time…
R.M.: We did manage to have a few 2–3 days outings, but it was mainly thanks to our spouses, not us. They are also close friends and undertook to organize those trips themselves, maybe tired of our permanent work load.
Ukrainian legislation has undergone drastic and abrupt changes since its independence. As you were there, keeping track of all those changes, you can now become authors of Ukrainian lawmaking anthology... What legal changes do you expect from the new state authorities?
M.I.: Process of law adoption in Ukraine is very poor. It is very destructive for business when new code is adopted and after a few months first amendments are introduced. I consider that legislation shall be very stable and shall not depend on the political force, which came to power.
What would you personally like to expect from the new president and government?
M.I.: Superiority of law.
R.M.: I’d like to see the transparency of all processes (I mean more than “extensive transparency”, as we used to have none at all) and a heavy attack on corruption, as the current situation in Ukraine largely brings to naught the legal professionalism.
Do you predict an influx of foreigners (tourists, investors) in Ukraine after the “orange” events? If yes, is Ilyashev & Partners ready to meet new challenges of the legal services market?
I.I.: Orange Revolution has done a service to PR of Ukraine in the world. It is quite clear that interest of foreigners will grow… at least during the first year. However, our government needs to maintain it. As for our firm, we have many foreign clients and reputation of our firm is recognized in the world, so, we are ready to serving new foreign clients and are confident that we will meet their highest demands and standards of work.
R.M.: The majority of our lawyers are fluent in several foreign languages, while the lion share are graduates of the Institute of International Relations, and we’ve been working with foreign companies in Ukraine for the last 8 years. By now, we’ve gained an extensive work experience with foreign clients, which may be confirmed by a positive feedback of a few dozens of our clients. Of course, we look forward to further developing this direction.
What do you think, is there any difference between the professional & work standards of local and foreign law firms? What professional standards are preached by Ilyashev & Partners?
M.I.: Each company is to be unique. We apply western standards of legal services certainly adopted to our national standards, when necessary.
R.M.: In my opinion Ukrainian law firms are more target-oriented in a sense of achieving a client’s task and are more tailor-made to fit Ukrainian business reality. For instance, in the practice of Ilyashev & Partners we’ve had a case when a nonresident intended to acquire real state in the Crimea. The office of a large international law firm concluded the impossibility of the purchase due to non-validated proprietary rights. At the same time, having been aware of a larger picture, we knew that there was nothing “wrong” about this situation, as back in the Soviet times almost all immovable property was constructed in the same manner. We’ve come to grips with the situation and approached it in a creative manner — came up with a way to arrange a deal with a realty built before Ukraine’s independence. In the upshot it enabled our client to achieve his goal — to purchase the realty and start running it.
What other experience do you most often have with foreign clients, what makes them resort to legal advice?
M.I.: Usually foreign companies retain us to establish their representative office in Ukraine, create a joint company with local company, advise on mergers and acquisitions, provide due diligence of local business for different purposes, represent them in courts. We are proud that we were retained by one of the leading Fortune 500 company from Switzerland to represent them solely in the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.