Scott Senecal is an American lawyer with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in Moscow. His practice focuses on financial and corporate law, and he has extensive experience in mergers and acquisitions, capital market transactions, and syndicated loans.
CEELM: Run us through your background, and how you ended up in your current role with Cleary Gottlieb in Russia.
Scott: Born in Delaware, educated in New York (Columbia ’84, NYU Law ‘87), clerked for the federal district court in my native state, started with Cleary in 1988 with the aspiration to work abroad, which resulted in time in London (1990-92, ‘95), Kuwait (1993), and Hong Kong (1994), before landing in Moscow “for a year or two” in 1996, never leaving since. It’s been amazing to live in Russia for these years and witness its (non-linear) progress, and work with what now seems several generations of young Russian lawyers.
CEELM: Was it always your goal to work abroad?
Scott: You bet.
CEELM: Tell us briefly about your practice, and how you built it up over the years.
Scott: One of the pleasures of working in a small office (and a nondepartmentalized firm) is that you move with the market. I’ve been through the market cycles and transitioned from doing mostly capital markets/finance work to mostly M&A work (but much enjoyed working on Armenia’s sovereign Eurobond this year). The best way to build up a practice is making clients happy so that they come back to you for the next deal and suggest you to others.
CEELM: How would clients describe your style?
Scott: Surveys say: hands-on and goal-oriented.
CEELM: There are obviously many differences between the American and Russian judicial systems and legal markets. What idiosyncrasies or differences stand out the most?
Scott: Foremost, Anglo-Saxon courts draw on centuries of jurisprudence in resolving commercial/corporate disputes, while spinning out sophisticated business and economic analy-sis, as exemplified by the Court of Chancery of ... Delaware! The Russian judiciary would benefit from a Chancellor Allen (RIP) or two.
CEELM: How about the cultures? What differences strike you as most resonant and significant?
Scott: Drafts across a room, ice in a beverage: Russians consider these things potentially lethal; Americans refreshingly cool and soothing.
CEELM: What particular value do you think a senior expatriate lawyer in your role adds – both to a firm and to its clients?
Scott: For the office, to demonstrate by example Cleary’s core values of commitment to ex-cellence, devotion to its clients, dedication to diversity, and collegiality. For the clients, by drawing upon a couple decades of deal-making, aligning client priorities to deal negotiations and results, giving practical risk assessments including when to draw a red line, inventing practical solutions, bridging cultural gulfs.
CEELM: Do you have any plans to move back to the United States?
Scott: Not at the moment, but I dearly love visiting my brother in the old family home in the First State.
CEELM: Outside of Russia, which CEE country do you enjoy visiting the most, and why?
Scott: The Austro-Hungarian Empire, including its epicenter, Vienna. Of course, the empire has gone out of business, but one can only be wistful for a time when a veneer of German bureaucracy administered many fractious peoples.
CEELM: What’s your favorite place to take visitors in Moscow?
Scott: An afternoon walk around Novodevichy Monastery and its pond, then a Georgian re-past, and on to the Conservatory for a concert, a Rachmaninov and Stravinsky pairing, ideally in the late spring when, as the concert continues, the sunlight deserts the hall with lingering regret.