10th Annual IBA Law Firm Management Conference

13.12.2016 10th Annual IBA Law Firm Management Conference The IBA International Conference on Law Firm Management was held in Moscow on December 2, 2016. Lawyers from across the world discussed issues related to managing a law firm, shared experiences and information on latest international trends and strategies for managing a legal business. 

Co-chairs of the conference were Vasily Rudomino, Senior Partner, ALRUD Law Firm; Member of the Board on the IBA Legal Practice Division, Russia; Alexander Khvoschinsky, Senior Partner, Walker Clark; Member of the Advisory Council, Committee on IBA Law Firm Management, Germany; and Aku Sorainen, Senior Partner, Sorainen; Deputy Chairman of IBA Law Firm Management Committee, Estonia.
The conference opened with the welcoming remarks of David Rivkin, IBA President, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, UK, USA. Then Yuri Pilipenko, Senior Partner at JUST Legal Firm, Chairman of the Federal Attorney Chamber of Russia, covered a number of important issues of the legal profession and the need for appearance of a new model of legal education, such as LLC. 

Moderators of the plenary session titled “The Lessons We Learned in 10 Years of Managing a Law Firm” were Vasily Rudomino and Stephen Denyer, Head of International Cooperation Division, The Law Society of England & Wales (UK).

Alexander Khvoschinsky, Senior Partner at Walker Clark (Germany) called these “bitter lessons,” since very view partnerships survived and consolidated, and few achieved a leadership breakthrough. The main lessons that needed to be covered were: “not to stay with those you do not wish to work with,” “look at things in a broader sense,” and “learn English.” Robert Millard, Partner at Møller PSF Group (UK) talked about the lessons they learned from abroad, introduced the historical discourse and suggested renewing the strategy.

Dmitry Afanasyev, Co-Found and Chairman of the Partners’ Committee of Egorov, Puginsky, Afanasyev, and Partners (Russia) gave a very engaging presentation. He talked about the issues of politics and law, trends in development of legal business, and covered the staffing problem. Brian Zimbler, Managing Partner, Morgan Lewis (Russia) noted that technologies will play an important role in legal business. Vitaly Vodolazkin, Managing Partner, Sayat Zholshy & Partners (Kazakhstan) covered the main trends in legal business development in Kazakhstan. Denis Kachkin, Managing Partner, Kachkin & Partners Law Firm (Russia) discussed the history of his law office. He said that “eagles are not likely to fly with owls,” and noted the important of common values and beliefs in partnerships.

A World Cafe Workshop was held by Christophe Vaagt, Managing Partner, Change Consultants (Germany) in collaboration with Tatiana Kamenskaya, Managing Partner, Kamenskaya & Partners (Russia). Participants had the opportunity to discuss the following issues: how to negotiate fees with clients, how to justify a fixed fee, hourly rates or other pricing mechanisms, how to ensure and clearly demonstrate high quality of services in conditions of pricing pressure. This workshop allowed the participants to discuss these issues and share their thoughts and experiences and delineate the most important of the suggested idea, namely how to sell yourself and provide value to clients. Christophe Vaagt said that partners need to be concise, think deeply, listen to and understand others. 

The Panel Discussion “ Strategy. Consolidation or Separation?” was dedicated to the problem of choosing the strategy of consolidation or separation into independent companies, the participants discussed the reasons and consequences of adopting such decisions, and concrete examples from their own experience. Otabek Suleymanov, Partner, Centil (Colibri) Law Firm (Central Asia and Iran) spoke about the uniqueness of the Asian market, the problem of “the information gap” and the difficulty of doing legal business in the region. Florian Schneider, Managing Partner, Dentons (Russia) talked about the polycentric approach and how a combined system has led to rapid growth. Andrey Goltsblat, Managing Partner, Goltsblat BLP (Russia) spoke about his vision of the strategy of business development and what him to a merger with a British company. He also discussed the importance of understanding what you are doing. Duncan Weston, Managing Partner, CMS (UK) discussed the importance of having a clear strategy, introduction of mobile technologies and what to look for during mergers.

Alexander Khvoschinsky (Germany) and Aku Sorainen (Estonia) held a World Cafe Workshop entitled “How to Become an International Law Firm.” The participants discussed turning a national law firm into an international level company. The participants in the workshop talked about the main criteria that distinguish a national law firm which works primarily with internal customers from a national law firm that positions itself as an international player on the market of legal services. The main requirements included learning foreign languages and studying legal systems of other countries, expanding contacts, learning about the culture and peculiar features of partners and serving as “window into the world” and “window into Russia,” presenting the company to potential clients.

The second panel discussion focused on practical advice for keeping a law firm “fit”. Managing partners received practical recommendations on increasing profitability of the legal firm and guarantee increased profitability in the future. The participants noted that often law firms cannot answer the important questions of where they are headed, and who their clients are. Without a key strategy, no success could be achieved.

In the second roundtable speakers and commentators attended to the summary of research results and shared their thoughts and experiences on how successful partners act and behave in today's law firms.

The third panel discussion was dedicated to ways of using narrow specializations for developing niche strategies of sustainable development.  Michael Reynolds, Partner, Allen & Overy (Belgium), talked about the benefits of being a “niche” company, conflicts of interest and how to use the firm’s narrow specialization in its strategy. Alexander Zabeyda, Managing Partner, Zabeyda, Kasatkin, Saushkin & Partners (Russia) shared his thoughts on the importance of mutual support, high discipline and responsibility, discussed the skills of managing the law firm and the ability to speak the language of business. Madina Asylbekova, Director for Development, Russia and CIS, Gowling WLG (Russia) talked about remaining a “niche” firm in the larger firm environment. Vladimir Bublikov, partner at RKT (Russia), talked about the strategic development of a “niche” firm and accummulation of best practices. Roman Zykov, Secretary General of RAA (Russia) discussed the reasons behind the Russian Arbitration Association being a niche establishment, about the advantages of “arbitration in pajamas” and the development strategy. 
Annually, the conference attracts a considerable number of participants due to importance of the issues being discussed, which relate to the development of the legal market, regulation of professional activities and creation of legal firm strategy.

The photoreport and conference materials can be viewed on the conference website.

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