Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is in international expansion mode.
The firm has added eight lawyers, including two partners, to its Moscow office just days after announcing plans to open a location in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Morgan Lewis said Monday it has added two partners and six associates to its business and finance practice from law firm Gide Loyrette Nouel.
Partner Grigory Marinichev is the former head of Gide Loyrette’s banking and finance and restructuring practices. He created the banking and finance practice at the firm 10 years ago, Morgan Lewis said. He has worked closely with partner Konstantin Kochetkov, who will bring his project finance practice to Morgan Lewis.
Morgan Lewis opened in Moscow in the summer of 2012 as part of its acquisition of a team of Dewey & LeBoeuf lawyers across Moscow and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Morgan Lewis said the new Moscow team’s practice fits in with the firm’s emerging market finance practice in London and the new finance team added to launch the Dubai office.
“Grigory and Konstantin’s team of top-tier finance and corporate transactional lawyers represent many large financial institutions and corporate enterprises that are particularly active in Russia and Europe,” Morgan Lewis Chairman Francis M. Milone said in a statement.
Marinichev’s practice focuses on structured finance and secured lending as well as debt restructuring and insolvency matters for blue chip borrowers, Russian and European lenders and debtors undergoing liquidation or reorganization. He also counsels companies in a variety of industries including metals and mining, telecommunications, oil and gas, energy and municipal infrastructure. Kochetkov advises clients on project finance transactions, as well as on issues relating to pre-export finance, export finance, restructuring, equity financing and private equity transactions.
Gide Loyrette is a Paris-based firm with 19 offices across Europe, Asia, North America and Africa. The firm’s sole U.S. location is in New York, where the firm’s two lawyers in the city provide U.S. tax advice to international clients.
Charles E. Engros Jr., managing partner of Morgan Lewis in charge of the international practice, said the firm wanted a top-flight practice in Moscow and felt the one missing piece was in the financing and restructuring area. He said the new additions fill that gap with what he called the most prominent practice of its kind in the region.
Engros said the team had been on the radar screen of Morgan Lewis’ existing Moscow attorneys for some time. He said Marinichev and Kochetkov were attracted to the firm because of its experience in the energy and media and entertainment fields as well as the firm’s connections in London, where it is involved with a number of financing transactions with emerging countries, particularly in Russia and those markets part of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Prior to the new team joining the firm, Morgan Lewis’ Moscow office focused on oil and gas transactions, M&A transactions for international companies doing business in Russia or the CIS and international media companies doing licensing, acquisitions or film projects in Russia or CIS countries, Engros said.
Morgan Lewis is “most definitely in investment mode,” Engros said of the firm’s recent spate of lateral acquisitions and office openings. He said the firm is looking to expand internationally to add strength in existing offices or new locations. Engros said there are additional international markets Morgan Lewis is interested in entering, but he declined to name them.
Brian L. Zimbler, head of Morgan Lewis’ Moscow office, has been practicing in the region for 25 years. He said it is a conservative market that does not see the amount of lateral movement other markets experience. While associates frequently move firms, partners rarely do, Zimbler said.
Zimbler said Morgan Lewis felt deeper bench strength in the banking and finance practice was important for Russia, and any emerging market, for that matter. He said most deals in these emerging markets have a debt component that often require restructuring or continual debt reservicing.
Zimbler said the firm’s London office is known in the Russian market for doing that work, but not having a stronger team on the ground in Moscow kept the firm from getting the largest deals in the banking and restructuring space. The Moscow office already had a five-lawyer group, including Zimbler, that handled banking and finance work, but Zimbler said the new additions bring the practice to the top of the market.
With the addition of the eight Gide Loyrette attorneys and the inclusion of a few trainees, Zimbler said the Moscow office will house around 40 lawyers.
There aren’t many Pennsylvania-based firms with offices in Russia.
Dechert has had a Moscow office for several years. There are currently about 20 attorneys in the location, focusing on everything from antitrust and regulatory work to banking and finance and arbitration. K&L Gates has 12 lawyers in its Moscow office. They focus on corporate work, banking and finance, energy, real estate and infrastructure, telecommunications and information technology matters. Philadelphia-based Marks & Sokolov has eight attorneys, including Moscow-based name partner Sergey Sokolov.