The War in Ukraine left no market sectors unaffected and, according to Ilyashev & Partners Managing Partner Mikhail Ilyashev, things were no different for lawyers.
“The most pressing concern was to secure documents and infrastructure when the war started,” Ilyashev begins. “A few weeks before the war started, we circulated a memo with instructions on what to do in case of an invasion – I was 100% certain that there would be a war,” Ilyashev says. He reports that Ilyashev & Partners successfully relocated to homes and special shelters and managed to “secure our databases as well, in addition to having done backups outside of Ukraine even before the war.”
Ilyashev shares that the firm successfully managed to operate in a home office paradigm because “electricity and internet were both running. Still, with all state authorities ceasing their operations – there was less work for lawyers overall. It was easy to see that lawyering was not the most important profession in war times,” he says. Still, there was work, and Ilyashev reports a strong stream of “inquiries with respect to leaving the country, crossing the border, as well as mobilization aspects. Additionally, there was a high number of asset transfers to the army on both a mandatory and voluntary basis – for example, we gave our old conference call system to the military – as well as the matter of paying taxes in advance. And our maritime law practice was even busier than before the war, due to the situation with the shipping in the Black Sea,” Ilyashev reports.
While March still saw some activity – especially in criminal law, dispute resolution, employment, and military law – Ilyashev reports a “massive slowdown of many departments” afterward, including real estate, intellectual property, M&A, competition, and international trade. “After the initial shock abated, and the courts began opening up on urgent criminal prosecution matters, people began returning to the cities – I came back to the office in April,” he reports. “As Kyiv became safer, so too the legal market began picking up – mainly for dispute resolution, employment, criminal, and military law aspects. We had to crack open the books and relearn military law – not a popular subject matter in peace times,” Ilyashev says.
As life started coming back to the cities, Ilyashev reports that their firm began “promoting office work” and that, by June, “about 70% of all our staff was back in our offices. Subsequently, we saw a rise in some real estate and corporate work, as well as daily corporate activities,” he reports. “Dispute resolution, competition, and international trade work began again later and, from June to November, the scope of services started resembling the realities before the war, with the exception of intellectual property and M&A,” he explains. While the figures are not at their 2021 levels, Ilyashev reports that there is some “degree of predictability now” and that the firm can now “make plans for December. In the early days of the war, we had to plan things on a day-to-day basis.”
Finally, Ilyashev reports that the firm had to “go lean – we lost about 20% of our office staff that went abroad during these times, but, on the other hand, our top priority was to secure salaries for those that stayed in Ukraine,” he explains. “This helped us be more clear in terms of the capacities we have to deploy,” Ilyashev concludes.