Squire Sanders Among Firms to Break New Legal Ground Abroad
Large firms across the world are expanding into far-flung jurisdictions in search of new work.
Squire Sanders announced Monday the formation of an international association with 32-lawyer Salkom LLC in Ukraine, where it has long maintained a presence. The new venture, called Squire Sanders–Salkom International Association, went live on October 1 when Squire Sanders’ four local lawyers—led by managing partner Peter Teluk—began working out of Salkom’s sole office in Kiev. The Am Law 100 firm first opened in Kiev back in 1995 but spun off its local base in 2003, before eventually returning after a five-year hiatus in 2008.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Squire Sanders chairman and CEO James Maiwurm told The Am Law Daily that his firm has been working with Salkom since the late 1990s, making a more formal arrangement between the two firms a logical move. Maiwurm says there will be “appropriate safeguards” to protect client confidentiality as the two firms begin working closer together.
“Since we’ve known each other for so long, culturally this was a good fit,” says Maiwurm, adding that the alliance will for the most part be exclusive, except when conflicts get in the way. He says that Squire Sanders and Salkom will share marketing and resource costs in Ukraine, which is home to other foreign firms like Baker & McKenzie, Chadbourne & Parke, Clifford Chance, CMS Cameron McKenna, Dentons, and DLA Piper.
Like many countries overseas, Ukraine requires foreign lawyers to be licensed in order to practice locally, but Maiwurm notes that Squire Sanders is mostly focused on cross-border work, while Salkom’s client base is split 50-50 between local and foreign clients. As a result, Maiwurm says the two firms will remain independent, but collaborate on matters involving crossover clients in practice areas like corporate, finance, M&A, and international arbitration and disputes.
Maiwurm, who has recently guided the 1,300-lawyer Squire Sanders through a merger with British firm Hammonds and its expansion into Australia, says that the Salkom alliance will complement his firm’s strong presence in Central and Eastern Europe (the firm has offices in Bratislava, Budapest, Moscow, Prague and Warsaw).
But Ukraine, which a recent report by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative found had the world’s worst track record of IP enforcement, has also slowly slipped back into the sphere of influence of Russia, its former Soviet master. Late last year, a 303-page report issued by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom concluded that while internal politics hadn’t influenced the high-profile trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko—a previous report by Covington & Burling had found to the contrary—the proceedings were still flawed. (The report commissioned by Ukraine’s Russian-backed president triggered a brawl in parliament.)
Maiwurm says that while Ukraine is closer to Russia than in years past, his firm remains above the political fray—and the Squire Sanders leader couldn’t help but note that the former Soviet republic’s political situation is “not quite as complicated” as the recently resolved impasse that shut down the federal government stateside.
Squire Sanders is structured as a Swiss verein, and Maiwurm remains a strong proponent of separate partner profit pools. According to the most recent Am Law 100 financial data, the firm saw gross revenue rise 4.5 percent, to $774.5 million, in 2012, while profits per partner remained flat at $800,000.
While Squire Sanders broadens its offerings in Ukraine, two other Am Law 100 firms have set up shop in another former Soviet republic, whose sparkling new capital of Astana has lured both architects and attorneys.