Saturday, July 02, 2011

Kyivpost: Ukraine’s ‘top lawyers’ can be worth knowing

Ukraine’s ‘top lawyers’ can be worth knowing

Ukraine’s ‘top lawyers’ can be worth knowing

June 30, 2011 at 01:43 | Kyiv Post Staff
Whether you’re a small businessperson, big foreign investor, oligarch, diplomat, gumshoe journalist or average citizen, getting to know the top commercial lawyers in Ukraine can come in handy.


Because these intelligent, educated and well-informed individuals have some of the best insights into what is happening in Ukraine and how to get things done.

They know the country’s muddled laws inside out and how favoritism works in courts. As a result, they know best how to swim successfully in the murky waters of this nation’s very untrustworthy judicial system.

They know best how to protect investments, open closed doors, seal deals, get permits and pay taxes. They know what lawmakers are up to when they adopt legislation that stifles competition or fuels corruption. They know what law changes are needed to fix the country. The list goes on.

In servicing foreign investors – big and small – they help bring fresh blood into Ukraine’s economy and know best of all what legislative hurdles are keeping badly needed foreign direct investment out.

In servicing domestic oligarchs and their companies, they know what is happening – and far too often choking – Ukraine’s heavily monopolized and politicized economy.

“Lawyers do get in on a lot of information,” said Oleh Malskyy, a partner at Kyiv-based AstapovLawyers. “It adds a lot to understanding of what’s going on in the country.”

Ukraine is not an easy place to do business. Mitigating risks is more than wise. Getting out of trouble when it arises is a matter of survival.

When it comes to the best of Ukrainian lawyers, sources say they work hard and long hours, but get rewarded well. Ukraine’s top lawyers can earn millions of dollars annually, enough to retire on after a few years of grueling work, insiders said.

“The minimum annual income that qualifies you as a top lawyer would be somewhere at $2 million,” said Malskyy. “This is approximately what a leading Ukrainian law firm would pay a partner for a successful year.”

According to Malskyy, lawyers at international law firms typically charge the highest rates for their work, with the top end at $850 or so per hour. Hiring junior lawyers at the same firm can cost three times less.

“The difference between the monthly salaries of beginner lawyers and a top partner can be between 100 to 1,000 times, [with the] beginner at a starting salary of $1,000-2,000 per month,” said Serhiy Chorny, managing partner in Kyiv for international legal services giant Baker & McKenzie.

Some of Ukraine’s top lawyers are actually born abroad. Foreign lawyers often play a vital role in bringing their valued expertise to Ukraine. Many of them also go out of their way to lobby reforms in the country with domestic officials and abroad.

The majority of Ukraine’s top lawyers are Soviet-born, but Western-educated. As a result, they stand out in terms of experience, know-how and world views from the older generation. They see and understand how far Ukraine has come since its oppressive past and how far it has yet to go before attaining European or American standards.

Some high-profile Ukrainian lawyers – such as Serhiy Vlasenko and Oleg Riabokon -- both formerly of Kyiv-based Magisters law group – have in recent years made the leap into Ukrainian politics. If more follow suit soon, some think Ukraine could stand a better chance of improving its governance.

“It would be really great to get into parliament and work there on improving the legislation,” said Chorny. “I think any normal lawyer would want to do it. You feel there is an opportunity to do it, and you really know how.”

So, who are the top Ukrainian lawyers?

Choosing the top 10 or top 50 commercial lawyers is not an easy task.

In reality, there are likely hundreds of lawyers in Ukraine that are at the top of their game. Some excel in one area. Others are versatile. Others may not know Ukraine’s laws so well, but are creative in finding solutions. Others are simply superb and inspirational managers.

Here is how the Kyiv Post conducted this survey: We asked more than 70 top commercial law firms to nominate three of the nation’s top lawyers, giving them a ranking from 1 to 3; nominations of in-house lawyers were forbidden. Three points were awarded for first place, two for second and one for third.

We received 27 responses and nearly 50 nominations of lawyers. Twelve lawyers stood out from the crowd, each receiving more than four points.

The list of the top 12 Ukraine's lawyers:

Michael Kharenko
Olexander Martinenko
Vasil Kisil
Serhiy Chorny
Oleksiy Didkovskiy
Serhiy Piontkovsky
Adam Mycyk
Vadym Popko
Artem Stoyanov
Jaroslawa Johnson
Jared Grubb
Oleg Makarov

Honorable mention - nominees who received between one and three points, listed alphabetically:

Oleg Alyoshin, Vasil Kisil & Partners
Volodymyr Baibarza, Baibarza Fedichin
Vadym Belyanevych, Vasil Kisil & Partners
Yuriy Chumak, Lexfor
Anatoliy Dovgert, independent
Michael Doubinsky, Doubinsky & Osharova
Oleksiy Filatov, Vasil Kisil & Partners
Olyana Gordiyenko, Baker & McKenzie
Pavlo Kazymirov, Renaissance Capital
Armen Khachaturyan, Asters
Margarita Karpenko, DLA Piper Ukraine
Andrei Kolupaev, Lexwell & Partners
Sergei Konnov, Konnov & Sozanovsky
Sergii Koziakov, Sergii Koziakov & Partners
Andriy Kravets, Andriy Kravets & Partners
Tatyana Kuzmenko, AstapovLawyers
Andrey Lysenko, Philip Morris Ukraine
Denis Lysenko, Vasil Kisil & Partners
Iryna Marushko, Lavrynovych & Partners
Oleksiy Melnyk, Melnyk & Partners
Alexander Minin, KM Partners
Andriy Moroz, Lavrynovych & Partners
Yevgen Popko, Popko Brothers & Partners
Alexey Reznikov, Magisters
Volodymyr Ryzhyy, Ryzhyy Legal Bureau
Vladimir Sayenko, Sayenko Kharenko
Yaroslav Simonov, Voropayev & Partners
Mykola Stetsenko, Avellum Partners
Mariya Sukhan, Schoenherr
Dmitry Taranyk, Sayenko Kharenko
Andriy Tsvetkov, AS Consulting
Andriy Vyshnevsky, EnGarge Attorneys at Law
Viacheslav Yakymchuk, Baker & McKenzie
Dmytro Zabigaylo, Horizon Capital
Ilona Zekely, Magisters

Businesses that participated in Kyiv Post vote for top lawyer:
  • Arzinger
  • AS Consulting
  • Asters
  • Avellum Partners
  • Baker & McKenzie-CIS
  • B C Toms & Co
  • Beiten Burkhardt
  • Chadbourne & Parke
  • Clifford Chance
  • CMS Cameron McKenna
  • DLA Piper Ukraine
  • Ernst & Young
  • Gvozdiy & Oberkovych Law Firm
  • Ilyashev & Partners
  • International Law Firm Integrites
  • KPMG
  • LCF Law Group
  • Magisters
  • Misechko and Partners
  • Noerr TOV
  • Orlov, Mikhailenko & Partners
  • Pavlenko & Poberezhnyuk Law Group
  • PwC
  • Salans
  • Salkom Law Firm
  • Sayenko Kharenko
  • Schoenherr