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Eversheds and Clifford Chance Moscow teams launch independent firms following Russia exodus

Following on from the spate of Moscow office closures in March as a response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, international firms have started to set out their future plans for practices and teams.

Clifford Chance outlined plans for its Moscow team, having announced that it would begin an ‘orderly wind down’ of its business in Russia in March.

On Friday (29 April) the Magic Circle firm announced that Vika Bortkevicha, currently CC’s managing partner in Russia, is to establish her own firm called Bortkevicha & Partners.

The new firm, which is expected to be operational from 1 May, will house the majority of the existing Moscow team, who will bring with them the firm’s Russian work subject to client agreement. The existing Moscow practice is expected to be completely wound up by the end of May.

For those that have not joined the new Moscow firm, CC has endeavoured to relocate people to different offices as far as possible. A small team of antitrust and pharmaceutical lawyers, spearheaded by partner Tortsen Syrbe, are set to relocate to Düsseldorf in the coming weeks and will ‘become integrated into the Clifford Chance global network’.

Those who are unwilling or unable to relocate or join the new firm are expected to be made redundant. It is anticipated that this will be ‘a small number’, but the firm did not provide figures.

Earlier, Eversheds Sutherland announced on 25 April that, following its decision to close its Moscow practice in March, it had successfully transitioned its Russia operation to a newly-established independent firm.

Birch Legal, as the new practice has been called, has retained all of the firm’s lawyers and support staff in the region. The new firm will also be Eversheds’ relationship firm in Moscow, providing a route by which the firm can continue to offer a comprehensive service to international clients with interests in the country.

Mikhail Timonov will lead the new firm, following the death in March of Victoria Goldman, former managing partner of Eversheds in Russia.

Having raised questions regarding the plans following the announcement, a further statement issued last Wednesday (27 April) clarified: ‘Birch Legal is not part of Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP and nor do we have any financial interest in Birch Legal. Should clients choose to instruct any of our relationship firms, including Birch Legal, we do not benefit financially.’