Russian Law Week 2016: The Newest Tradition for English and Russian Lawyers

5 October 2016

Russian Law Week provides a unique opportunity to English solicitors and barristers to obtain a true insight and to get answers from top professionals to all the questions about Russian law that they always wanted to ask.

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Tell us about the history of Russian Law Week?

Stories are told of the very first Russian Law Week which was organized by the Anglo-Russian Law Association in the early 2000s as a one off event when a delegation of high-profile Russian lawyers visited London and Oxford. However, despite the events success, we had to wait until 2010 for the event to be repeated. In 2010, the first new Russian Law Week took place, this time with the additional support of the Law Society of England and Wales, the Bar Council and the British Russian Law Association as well as others. A high profile delegation of lawyers once again attended from Russia, including the Minister of Justice, Mr Konovalov, and his Deputy, together with a team from the Supreme Arbitration Court headed by its Chairman, Mr Ivanov. Events took place around the City of London including a lecture at University College London and a reception at Calvert 22, a Russian-focused gallery in London. The event proved to be a great success and resulted in the creation of an organising committee, which was put together to take charge of organisation of such events in the future. The committee was led by representatives from the Law Society and the Bar Council and supported by representatives of the two bilateral organisations ARLA and BRLA. This committee core remains in place to this day.

How many Russian and English Law Weeks have the organising committee organised to date?

Together we have organised five events, which have been attended by more than a 1,000 lawyers and are at present busy working on the next Russian Law Week which will take place in London this November.

In 2011, following the 2010 Russian Law Week, the newly formed organising committee considered that it would be appropriate to organise a similar event in Moscow focusing on English law. This resulted in the first ever English Law Week.

The first English Law Week was held in Moscow in June 2011. It was kindly hosted by the British Embassy in Moscow and was opened by Dame Anne Pringle, the UK Ambassador to Russia at the time. The participants included both local lawyers and a delegation of English barristers and solicitors. A range of topics were covered including the new English Bribery Act, corporate transactions involving English and Russian law elements, and resolution of Russian disputes in England by way of litigation or arbitration.

The following year we were back in London for Russian Law Week 2012, which was hosted by the Law Society and Lincoln's Inn. The Right Honourable Chris Grayling MP, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice and Alexander Yakovenko, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United Kingdom, welcomed the participants of this event. The event included a keynote by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman David Wootton as well as opening speeches by the president of the Law Society and the Chairman of the Bar Council. The working sessions looked at changes to the Russian Civil Code, the investment climate in Russia, questions of corporate governance and shareholder rights in Russia, Russia's membership of the WTO and resolution of disputes in Russia.

The next year, in planning on a return to Moscow, we decided to introduce an overall theme to our upcoming English Law Week. In the end we decided on the theme of "Managing (Contractual) Risk under English Law: in an M&A and Banking Context". We thought this would be an interesting and relevant theme for Russian lawyers that interact with English law. We organised the event around a case study and each of the working sessions was split into two parts: one that focused on theory and the second that looked at the application of the theory to our case study. This was no easy task and required a lot of hard work from all of the speakers and organisers, but we believe that the format was enjoyed by the participants.

In 2014 we were back to London for the next Russian Law Week. This time round the reception was held at the Inner Temple and working sessions were hosted by the Law Society and we continued to explore the developments in the Russian legal system, including an overview of the merger of the supreme courts, proposed developments to the Russian arbitration law and enforcement of foreign judgments in Russia. This was also the year that we could not avoid talking about sanctions and their overall effect. What was great to see is that in addition to the usual suspects who had participated in the Law Weeks from the outset we were seeing new faces. This was allowing everyone to form new business contacts and develop new business opportunities.

Is there an ongoing role for English and Russian bilateral events?

In 2015, despite the uneasy political situation between the two countries, English Law Week continued in its development and growth and this time round was supported by the Federal Chamber of Lawyers of the Russian Federation, the Moscow Chamber of Advocates and the St Petersburg Chamber of Advocates. The event once again enjoyed a very successful reception at the British Ambassador's Residence in Moscow. The working sessions were opened by John Lindfield, the Head of UK Trade & Investment in Russia, as well as, Yuri Pilipenko, the President of the Russian Federal Chamber of Lawyers, and Jonathan Smithers, the President of the Law Society of England & Wales (2015 - 2016). The participants at this event discussed the relevance of English law to Russian businesses in 2015 and beyond, looked at questions of corporate governance and the recovery of assets through bankruptcy and liquidation, enforcing debt, and debated whether London remained an attractive arbitrary venue for the resolution of Russian disputes. Despite the political situation, we  had the highest ever attendance compared to previous years. In addition, it felt like the event was slowly becoming a tradition and was anticipated with excitement by members of the legal communities in both Russia and UK.

As an English and Welsh solicitor, why should I attend Russian Law Week 2016? 

The political and global financial difficulties remain, yet despite all of these, we aim to take our event from strength to strength and to continue to use the Law Weeks to build and maintain bridges between the legal communities of the two countries. In fact that is even reflected in the title of this year's Russian Law Week. We have been working hard on putting together an interesting and engaging program for this year's event and look forward to seeing a solid turn out of participants from both countries. If you have not yet attended any of the Law Weeks and your work involves interaction between England and Russia, you are clearly missing a trick and simply must attend. All those attending will learn something new, will have an opportunity to meet some great people from both the Russian and the English legal communities, and be able to claim that they have become part of one of the newest traditions in the Anglo-Russian legal calendar.

We look forward to seeing everyone in London in November. The details of the program can be found  here.

Do Svidanya! - Until we meet.

These views are the views of the author and not those of the Bar Council.

By Artem Doudko, Counsel at White&Case LLP in London

Artem Doudko