When asked what the buzz is in Russia — what lawyers are talking about at the moment — KIAP Partner Anna Grishchenkova laughs. “Of course lawyers always talk about money,” she says.
Turning serious, Grishchenkova reports that, at least for her and her fellow litigators, “the top news is the new Arbitration Law.” Grishchenkova describes herself as being “very hopeful” about the new law, which came into force on September 1st of this year, and she says, “my understanding is that it should encourage arbitration, making it both more popular and more transparent.” She notes that arbitration in Russia is already considered “more sophisticated and more civilized,” and the new law represents “a good opportunity to make our dispute resolution system better.”
According to Grishchenkova the new rules of arbitrability of corporate disputes are designed to overcome the traditional conservatism of both lawyers and courts. Arbitration institutions are, under the new law, required to obtain a license from the Ministry of Justice, and while many international arbitration institutions were initially concerned, they are only required to demonstrate a legitimate and established reputation. By contrast, domestic arbitration institutions, which have been proliferating despite a reputation for being untrustworthy, will be forced to improve their transparency and reliability. It is hoped this will strengthen those domestic institutions.
In general, Grishchenkova reports, although the new law provides a base for increased enforcement of arbitration awards, “of course we’ll have to see how it works out in practice.” Grishchenkova notes that about 80% of arbitration awards are enforced in Russia, which is significantly more than several years ago, but still means that one in every five is rejected. Her sense is that the courts are more willing to enforce arbitration awards coming from foreign institutions — they look with much more skepticism and scrutiny at this coming from domestic institutions — so the expected improvement in those domestic institutions should be effective. Again, she says, “we’ll have to see.”
Turning to the legal market, Grishchenkova says she’s unaware of any recent firm openings, closings, or mergers, noting that split-offs are much more common in Russia than mergers anyway. She notes a recent trend of Russian firms in particular launching White Collar Criminal practices.
In “The Buzz” we interview experts on the legal industry living and working in Central and Eastern Europe to find out what’s happening in the region and what legislative/professional/cultural trends and developments they’re following closely.