Moscow’s tight-knit elite legal community got a jolt last September, when a high-billing team set out from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to start their own boutique. U.S. sanctions on Russia had helped prompt rainmaker Ilya Rybalkin and his colleague Suren Gortsunyan to launch Rybalkin, Gortsunyan & Partners, courting major clients that had traditionally stuck with international law firms for critical matters tied to the country.

But even as the geopolitical environment remains unsettled, with the U.S. imposing additional sanctions in August, international shops are finding ways to hang on in the country. And while some up-and-coming Russian lawyers have found new homes, no one has yet attempted to replicate the Rybalkin Gortsunyan model.

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