06 Jun 2022

Hogan Lovells’ Moscow office spun out to create new independent firm

Level Legal Services launched this month alongside relocations and 'some' expected redundancies

Moscow skyscrapers in the evening

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Hogan Lovells has closed its Moscow office and announced the creation of a new independent law firm in the Russian capital led by three of its former lawyers. 

The London-based firm first announced plans to shutter its Moscow office back in March, becoming one of a raft of international firms to do so fin the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Hogan Lovells later said it would cease operating in Moscow 1 June and that a new independent firm headquartered in the city, named Level Legal Services, had been created under the leadership of Alexei Dudko, Leonid Ervits and Denis Almakaev. All three previously worked in Hogan Lovells’ Moscow office, Dudko as a partner and Ervits and Almakaev as counsel. 

‘We are reaching out to relevant clients of the Moscow office to confirm whether they would like to transition some of their current work to the new firm, in line with our legal, regulatory and professional obligations,’ Hogan Lovells said. 

Natalia Gulyaeva, former managing partner of the firm’s Moscow office, will relocate to Düsseldorf with a small team and continue to advise clients on IP, media and technology matters. 

Several other members of Hogan Lovells’ Moscow team will move over to other offices in the coming weeks, the firm said, adding: ‘Some of our colleagues will not be relocating or joining the new firm so we also anticipate some redundancies as a result of the changes.’

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Announcing the new firm on LinkedIn, Ervits said Level Legal Services had secured a referral arrangement with Hogan Lovells, where most of its partners and lawyers had worked for a number of years. 

Alongside the managing partner trio, other former Hogan Lovells lawyers to have joined the firm include Maria Baeva, Vironika Pilyugina and Serafima Pankratova. The Global Legal Post understands that former DLA Piper counsel Sergey Lubimov has also come aboard, DLA Piper having announced earlier this year that it was set to pull the plug on its Moscow practice

Ervits added that Level Legal Services will operate across Russia and the wider CIS region, offering services including corporate, employment, finance, regulatory, trade and commerce, real estate and dispute resolution.  

UK Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance (CC) also announced at the end of April that it was spinning out its Moscow office into an independent firm launched by then-Moscow managing partner Vika Bortkevicha. Most of CC’s Moscow team joined the new firm, called Bortkevicha & Partners, to which it transferred its existing Russia work before winding up its Russia operations at the end of May. 

Clifford Chance’s spin out followed shortly after Eversheds Sutherland hived off its base in the Russian capital to form Birch Legal, with all of the office’s lawyers and staff moving over. 

Notably, Bortkevicha & Partners does not have a formal relationship with CC, unlike Eversheds’ former office, which operates as its former parent’s relationship firm in Russia. 

Following an article in UK title City AM that highlighted the firms’ continuing links, Eversheds clarified that: ‘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.”

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