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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.

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Orrick hires six public finance lawyers in Texas

Six public finance lawyers have left Andrews Kurth Kenyon in Texas to join Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe—part of a larger group expected to leave Andrews Kurth for Orrick in the near future.

Texas Lawyer reported earlier this month that Andrews Kurth, which is shedding lawyers as it nears a merger with Virginia firm Hunton & Williams, was expected to lose a large public finance group to Orrick, which opened its first Texas office in January 2016 in Houston.

On Wednesday, Orrick confirmed that Robert Collie and Gene Locke recently joined the firm in Houston as senior counsel. The firm also confirmed that Jerry Turner joined as a senior counsel in Austin, along with of counsel Nathelie Ashby, Eric Johnson and Bill Medaille.

The firm is opening an office in Austin in connection with the lateral hires.

A spokeswoman for Orrick declined to comment on the extent of the lateral hires from Andrews Kurth in Texas. Locke and Collie, who list Orrick as their employer on their State Bar of Texas membership records, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Andrews Kurth currently lists 18 lawyers in its public finance practice and all are in Texas. Two sources with knowledge of the situation said that some lawyers in that public finance group plan to stay at Andrews Kurth and will not move to Orrick.

Andrews Kurth declined to comment on the departures, but dozens of the Houston-based firm’s Texas lawyers have changed firms in recent weeks. Beneficiaries of the lateral moves include White & Case, which opened an office in Houston this month, Katten Muchin & Rosenman, which opened an office in Dallas, and DLA Piper, which expanded in Dallas with Andrews Kurth laterals.