The Bar in Russia

The Bar Council recently co-hosted “English Law Week” in Moscow to promote the English Bar in Russia. Rupert D’Cruz and Christian Wisskirchen report.

Between 27-29 June, the Bar Council co-hosted the first “English Law Week” at the British Embassy in Moscow. Organised in conjunction with the British Embassy, the Law Society, the British-Russian Law Association and the Anglo-Russian Law Association, this was the largest event to promote English legal services in Russia to date.

To maximise its impact and profile, “English Law Week” was planned around the visit to Moscow of the Lord Mayor, who opened the event together with fellow VIPs, Russian First Deputy Minister of Justice Alexander Fedorov and HM Ambassador to Moscow, Dame Anne Pringle.

The programme featured two days of presentations and panel discussions on regulatory, arbitration, litigation, corporate and transactional law issues. It attracted over 150 senior Russian commercial lawyers, in-house counsel and businesses involved or interested in the growing use of English law in Russia in these areas.

Showcasing the Bar’s expertise

The Bar Council was represented by a strong delegation which included 13 speakers on the 8 different panels. The Bar’s leading role in all aspects of the event was a testament to the increasing importance of the Russian legal market to the profession and the distinctive value and expertise that the Bar is able to provide Russian lawyers and their clients in all the areas under discussion.

The Chairman of the Bar, Peter Lodder QC, chaired the two sessions on regulation, which featured presentations on the Bribery Act 2010, money-laundering and fraud. With its wide-ranging procedural obligations, the Bribery Act is of particular importance and interest to Russian companies and their advisers dealing with and investing in the UK.

The event provided a timely opportunity to showcase the Bar’s expertise in this growing area of international work, as well as in the more traditional fields of arbitration and litigation. With particular regard to an increasingly challenging future that the publicly funded Bar faces in the light of increasing cuts in legal aid, the Bar Council’s participation in “English Law Week” was utilised to promote publicly funded practitioners in a market which has a real demand for their skills. In this context it was pleasing to note that the regulatory sessions turned out to be the best attended parts of the conference.

Developing professional relationships

The Bar’s delegation was also able to network effectively with leading Russian business representatives at the Lord Mayor’s reception as well as at a reception for Russian lawyers following the first day of the conference.

Members of the Bar who attended “English Law Week” were consistent in reporting that it provided a very useful opportunity to develop professional relationships and to understand better the dynamics of the Russian legal market.

On the margins of the conference Bar Council representatives were able to meet Russian Deputy Justice Minister Yuri Liubimov to develop further joint initiatives which will enable members of the profession to make further links with Russian practitioners.

The UK relationship is valued greatly by the Russian Ministry of Justice and the Minister expressed the hope that English Law Week in Moscow and Russian Law Week in London (which first took place last year) will become regular features of the legal calendar in both countries. The Bar Council’s International Team will be working together with other partners to make this a reality.

We also met with representatives of the Moscow City Bar Council, with which we had signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2010 to develop initiatives relating to various aspects of the rule of law. The next project in this respect will be the development of a short but practical publication which promotes an understanding of the different ways in which rule of law concepts have developed in Russia and the UK and demonstrates with practical examples how adherence to these concepts promotes (and is an indispensable part of) long term economic prosperity.

Given the interest in English law and dispute resolution in the CIS region and Russia in particular, these initiatives will remain a priority for the Bar Council’s International Committee over the coming years.

Finding out about further events

Barristers interested in attracting Russia-related work should keep an eye on the Bar Council website international pages for future events. We also regularly advise the Specialist Bar Associations of upcoming events and activities

Another suggestion would be to consider joining specialists groups dealing with Russia, such as the British-Russian Law Association (www.thebrla.com).

UK Trade & Investment (“UKTI”), the government agency promoting UK plc abroad, who supported this project, also from time to time runs information events and trade missions of their own.

You can sign up to email alerts on their website (www.ukti.gov.uk) or by contacting Elizabeth Fehnrich, International Trade Adviser. E-mail: elizabethfehnrich@uktilondon.org.uk.

Rupert D’Cruz, Member of the International Committee (CIS lead)
Christian Wisskirchen, Head of International Relations

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