It was a grim morning in November 2008 when Andrey Goltsblat, managing partner of the leading Russian law firm Pepeliaev Goltsblat & Partners, set out for one of the most difficult meetings of his 20-year career. Moscow was already deep in the grip of winter, the streets buried beneath inches of snow. But it wasn’t the weather that troubled Goltsblat as he arrived at the firm’s premises and headed to the office he shared with Sergey Pepeliaev, the firm’s senior partner. Goltsblat had a dramatic announcement to make: He was leaving the business they’d spent the last two decades building together. And he was taking half the firm with him.

Neither man will talk about exactly what was said in that meeting—Pepeliaev would only describe his reaction as “appropriate”—but it’s safe to say that Goltsblat’s news didn’t go down well. In one fell swoop, nine partners and a full 70 lawyers—PGP’s entire corporate practice and the firm’s heads of real estate, dispute resolution, and employment—left to join U.K. firm Berwin Leighton Paisner.

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