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Russian legal market 'has further to go'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 03/07/13

The market for in-house lawyers and their private practice counterparts has grown enormously in Russia over the last few years, as companies in the country take advantage of its business-friendly regime to spread across Europe and the rest of the globe.

While they could be forgiven for looking back with fondness to the days of the cossacks, when expansion didn't need to be accompanied with legal affidavits and so on, the reality is that any emerging economy is likely to attract the lawyers needed to keep everything above board.

However, Russia is still having some teething problems as it attempts to integrate into the global legal market, according to secretary general of the International Bar Association (IBA) Martin Solc.

Speaking to Rapsi, the country's premier legal information site, the IBA chief said: "In my view there's still a level of isolation that's not impossible to overcome, it's not a feature of the system."

He added that law firms and the sophistication of these organisations are not the only thing that define a country's overall position in the international legal market, although it is often these that grab the headlines.

Instead, Mr Solc highlighted "the quality and functionality of laws, the quality of the judiciary, decreasing bureaucracy and increasing flexibility within the system" as important factors in determining Russia's overall position.

The IBA secretary general expressed his optimism about the country's potential as a legal hub, especially in urban areas such as Moscow, but admitted that law firms in the English-speaking world will continue to dominate for the coming years.

He concluded that Russia's success will ultimately depend on how it decides to engage with the international legal market, "and what direction it would like to choose".

Despite the fact that Russia still has a fairly sizeable bear population (bears and lawyers are natural enemies, having only managed to co-exist for a brief period in the 90s when a relatively well-dressed bear was made partner at Clifford Chance), there is no doubt that its legal market is likely to improve in the long term.