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Orrick becomes latest international law firm to pull out of Moscow

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe has closed its office in Moscow, with corporate partner Konstantin Kroll relocating to London to head up the US firm’s Russia operations in the City.

A firm spokeswoman confirmed that its small Moscow base closed at the end of 2017.

The move comes seven months after Herbert Smith Freehills hired Orrick partner Dmitry Gubarev in Moscow, where he headed the US firm’s Russian banking and finance practice. Olga Anisimova, a contract tax partner with Orrick in Moscow, has also recently left the firm, although others have relocated elsewhere.

Kroll, who joined Orrick’s Moscow office in 2014 from Jones Day, now heads the Russia desk in Orrick’s London office. The firm also maintains a Russia-focused practice based in Washington DC, where private equity and M&A partner Olga Sirodoeva is now based.

Sirodoeva and Anisimova previously worked at Coudert Brothers, which dissolved in 2005, the same year that Orrick opened in Moscow after absorbing a large group of lawyers from the now-defunct firm in that city and London. The raid would later form the crux of a claim by Coudert’s bankrupt estate against Orrick.

Sirodoeva and Anisimova were part of that group, as was former corporate partner John Sheedy, who left Orrick in January 2010 for Baker Botts. (Almost a year later, Sheedy was found dead in his Moscow apartment.)

Once one of the world’s hottest emerging legal markets, a deep freeze has settled on Russia in recent years, as noted by The American Lawyer last summer.

Geopolitical tensions with the US and other countries, economic sanctions and an often complicated local regulatory regime have led many large law firms to close up shop in Moscow.

Low energy prices have also continued to hit hard the Russian economy, lessening the need for Western lawyers to handle cross-border transactional work. In their stead, leading domestic firms, such as Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners, have moved to capture more market share.

Despite closing in Moscow, a move that comes nearly a year after Orrick revamped its Asia strategy following the departure of a large China capital markets and corporate team to Morgan Lewis & Bockius and almost three years after Orrick consolidated its offices in Germany, the firm is reallocating its resources elsewhere. An Orrick spokeswoman said that since 2013, the firm has grown from 237 lawyers across Africa and Europe to 302 today, making 38 lateral hires during that period.

Orrick opened offices in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and Geneva, Switzerland, in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and set up shop in Houston the following year. The firm is currently in discussions to take on roughly 25 public finance lawyers in Texas from Andrews Kurth Kenyon, a move that comes more than a month after Orrick acquired 15-lawyer litigation boutique Morvillo in New York.