An interview with Julien Hansen of DLA Piper Moscow.
CEELM: Run us through your background, and how you ended up in your current role with DLA Piper.
Julien: I was born in the Caribbean and grew up in Antigua and Barbuda. At the age of 16, I moved to Cambridge to study for the International Baccalaureate. I had always been interested in Russian history and literature, so I then went on to read Russian and Law at the University of Surrey. During that program I also studied at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations and interned with Ernst & Young in Moscow. After completing the legal practice course at the Inns of Court in London in 2004, I returned to work at Ernst & Young and then joined DLA Piper’s Moscow office a year later. I became a partner in 2014. I am also the Honorary Consul of Antigua and Barbuda.
CEELM: That’s interesting. Do your duties as Honorary Consul take up a significant part of your time? What sorts of work does that involve?
Julien: You have to dedicate quite a bit of time and energy to it if you want to achieve results. Being the only diplomatic mission in Russia means that I essentially do what embassies do. My aim is to further develop diplomatic and business relationships between the two countries, which involves many different projects, like promoting our island as a tourist and investment destination, promoting our culture, hosting cultural events and exchanges, hosting bilateral meetings, supporting our student community in Russia, and so on. For example, last summer our Prime Minister, the Honorable Gaston Browne, visited the St Petersburg Economic Forum with me where we signed a visa-free agreement with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
CEELM: Was it always your goal to work outside of Antigua and Barbuda?
Julien: I always expected to return to Antigua and Barbuda after my studies. However, as my interest in Russia grew, my goal then became to live and work in Russia.
CEELM: Tell us briefly about your practice, and how you built it up over the years.
Julien: I am a Partner in the Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions practice group of DLA Piper’s Moscow office and the head of the office’s English law practice. My focus is on “big ticket” cross-border mergers and acquisitions, private equity and joint-ventures, with a strong industry emphasis on the energy, natural resources and infrastructure sectors. I also lead the office’s Life Sciences practice.
CEELM: How would clients describe your style?
Julien: Attentive and thorough, but commercial and constructive.
CEELM: There are obviously many differences between the English and Russian judicial systems and legal markets. What idiosyncrasies or differences stand out the most?
Julien: Russia has a civil law system (i.e., codified law), while England has a common law system (i.e., case law). From a transactional point of view, the common law system has proven itself to be much more flexible than civil law systems, hence its global appeal and success. When applied in emerging markets, common law has the potential to be much more creative and exciting than when applied in its own “English” environment. This is especially true in Russia given the size and complexity of many of the transactions.
CEELM: How about the cultures? What differences strike you as most resonant and significant?
Julien: Russians tend to be more direct and honest in their views and more “human” in their approach. In a business context, this means that a “personal” connection, both with your own client and with the counterparty, is extremely important.
CEELM: What particular value do you think a senior expatriate lawyer in your role adds – both to a firm and to its clients?
Julien: From a risk and marketing perspective, it is vital for any international law firm providing English law services to have English law qualified lawyers and partners. For clients, it is obviously crucial for them to receive sign-off from English qualified partners on English law matters.
CEELM: Do you have any plans to move back to Antigua and Barbuda?
Julien: No I do not, but I do see myself spending a little bit more time there at some point. Possibly over the winter months!
CEELM: Outside of Russia, which CEE country do you enjoy visiting the most, and why?
Julien: Although very different, Budapest and Vienna. There are many reasons; architecture, culture, entertainment and the history of these cities.
CEELM: What’s your favorite place to take visitors in Moscow?
Julien: There is so much to do and see in Moscow that I always struggle to pick places for visitors. The city has changed a lot in the last five years, with renovations, etc., and it is looking really great. I would advise a strong cultural program, including a performance at the Bolshoi, visiting the Kremlin, and visiting various art galleries, monasteries, and palaces. The restaurant and nightlife scene is one of the best in the world, so there would be a lot of exploring on that front too. But walking onto Red Square for the first time is definitely a highlight!