1 June 2009
Annual turnover at Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev increased by almost 100%, according to TopLegal International annual financial survey

RUSSIANS COME IN FROM THE COLD

Annual turnover at Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev increased by almost 100%. Antony Collins looks behind the headline figures to discover how

By most accounts, Russian law firms remain an unknown force. Much of this has to do with the Russian legal market which has been less transparent compared with other European regions. Yet Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners has done much to sweep aside the air of mystery that surrounds native Moscow practices. And it has done so to truly surprising effect.

The 160-lawyer firm stated on record that its revenues topped €100m in 2008, doubling from €50m in €2007. That means the firm bills more than the likes of Stibbe, Norr Stiefenhofer Lutz and Gianni Origoni Grippo & Partners despite having a substantially lower headcount. To put it even more starkly, its €625,000 revenue-per-lawyer figure makes Egorov Puginsky the sixth most productive firm in Europe, ahead of elite names Bonelli Erede Pa-pallardo, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek and Gleiss Lutz. With only five equity lawyers, meanwhile, profits work out at a staggering €3.8m per partner.

Many observers would understandably balk at these statistics, based as they are on unprecedented growth increases together with a general lack of insight on the Russian market. Egorov Puginsky not only stands by its results but has also given an extensive and detailed outline of how they were achieved.

The core client list is certainly eye-catching: British Petroleum, the Bank of New York Mellon and Telenor. Add to this Strabag, Sony, OECD, Gazprom, Adidas, Cisco Systems and Caterpillar, plus the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (the firm was instructed in the case at the International Court of Justice at The Hague to defend a claim from the Republic of Georgia over the recent war in South Ossetia). The two—pronged transactional and litigation practice boasts a client and instruction list to make any Western European firm envious.

Then there is the firm's internal growth which has been nothing short of spectacular. Lawyer headcount rocketed three-fold from 43 in 2005 to 160 attorneys by the end of 2008. Coupled with this came an increase in the firm's billng rates: up by 43% since 2005. While junior lawyers bill up to SI50 per hour, senior partners' rates top $1,500. Billable hours have also jumped dramatically.

The Russian economy has for generations been insular. Its nouveau riche oligarchs have, admittedly, offered more than a glimpse into contemporary Russian business but relatively little is still known about lawyers and their links to the Russian business community.

Against the sceptics, Egorov Puginsky deserves credit for becoming the first major Russian firm to publicly declare its financial figures. It has gone on record with information that many European law firms in more mature legal markets (notably Germany, Portugal and Ireland) are still reluctant to provide. As such it has one asset several law firms across Europe still lack: confidence.

 TopLegal International article