Clifford Chance’s Moscow office to launch as independent firm with some job losses

Bortkevicha & Partners set to open on 1 May alongside 'small number’ of redundancies
Panorama of winter Moscow. Сapital of Russia. Kremlin, Kremlin wall, churches, Grand Kremlin Palace. Moscow river under the ice.

FOTOGRIN; Shutterstock

UK Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance (CC) has finalised its plans for the spinning out of its Moscow office into an independent firm in a move that will lead to a ‘small number’ of lay offs.

The new independent firm will be led by the office’s managing partner, Vika Bortkevicha, and is expected to launch on 1 May as Bortkevicha & Partners.

The UK firm will transfer its existing Russia work to the new firm, subject to the agreement of clients, over the following month, allowing it to cease its Russia operations on 31 May.

CC announced plans for an ‘orderly withdrawal’ from Moscow on 10 March, joining the vast majority of international law firms with offices there in quitting Russia in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

At the time of the announcement, the office was home to four partners and 26 other lawyers. One of those partners, Torsten Syrbe, will remain with CC, moving to its Dusseldorf office along with a small team of anti-trust and pharmaceutical specialists.

The firm said it also expected to relocate a ‘small number’ Moscow-based team members to other European offices in the coming weeks and that another small group would lose their jobs.

‘These future arrangements mean that we do not expect that all members of the existing Moscow team will leave Clifford Chance and move to the new firm or have the opportunity to relocate,’ the firm said in a statement. ‘Unfortunately, we therefore anticipate that a small number of the existing Moscow team will be made redundant as a result of these changes. We are working closely with those who are impacted to ensure that we can offer them all the support they need.’

Notably, Bortkevicha & Partners will not have a formal relationship with CC, unlike Eversheds Sutherland’s former office, which has been spun out in a similar manner but which will also operate as its former parent’s relationship firm in Russia.

Having unveiled Birch Legal on 25 April – with all lawyers and staff moving across – Eversheds Sutherland issued a follow-up statement two days later ‘to clarify an apparent misunderstanding’ about the extent of the relationship between the two firms following an article in UK title City AM that highlighted their continuing links.

‘For clarity, 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,” the firm said.

CC and Eversheds Sutherland are among the first firms to finalise the arrangements for their exit from Russia. A flurry of similar announcements can be expected in the coming days and it remains to be seen how many firms will continue to maintain a formal relationship with their former offices.

When Dentons announced plans to spin out its Russian arm – one of the larger of any international law firm – it said it hoped the new entity would be able to rejoin the global giant ‘when it is lawfully and practically possible to do so’. It is yet to unveil the final arrangements. 

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