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“The team was recently visible advising on a number of pharmaceutical cases. Sources agree that the team is “moving in the right direction” and are particularly impressed by its work in the pharmaceutical sector”.

 

Calling and Recognition

09.04.2012

Status, April 2012

Managing Partner of Ilyashev & Partners does not regret that 15 years ago he stayed up late into the night. As a result of tireless work, he gained not only reputation and publicity, but also valuable experience

Mikhail Ilyashev, when he just started the firm, had to prove his ability to advocate his clients’ interests to settle their cases. As word spread about the law firm recognition soon followed. He has been recognized as one of the best layers in Ukraine and featured or profiled in the leading international legal directories. At present Mikhail Ilyashev works “only” eleven hours a day and manages 55 people.

Mikhail Ilyashev, Managing Partner, Ilyashev & Partners Law Firm, Honored Lawyer of Ukraine
Born: August 26, 1976 in Kirovohrad.
He graduated from the Institute of International Relations, Kyiv National Taras Shevchenko University, specialty: international law.
In 1997 he founded Ilyashev & Partners.
Married, has a daughter and a son.

Pursuing a career in law

In 1990s many young people wanted to study law and economics. Did you follow the crowd or go with your gut feeling?

M. Ilyashev: I don’t think that in the early days of independence these professions were in high demand, it happened later. Therefore, it is inappropriate to speak about fashion. I wouldn’t call it gut feeling either. Jurisprudence was a conscious choice. Parents help a teenager to choose the field, where he can show his talents and abilities to the full. However, it does not mean that close relatives pursued my career for me. They rather guided me to a right choice.

What attracted you in jurisprudence?

M. Ilyashev: Now it is difficult to remember what motivated me when I was 16. I had no far-reaching plans; it just seemed that being a lawyer was a good job. None of my family worked in this field; I had nobody to coach me. I had only general ideas of what lawyers and attorneys do. I just followed my intuition and, as it turned out, made a right choice.

Did you get a job in a law firm after graduating from the university?

M. Ilyashev: No. My fellow students and I decided to launch own firm.

What motivated you?

M. Ilyashev: Market was relatively free and while studying we thought about the future. In late 1990s the leading law firms shared rooms in different scientific research institutes and rental apartments. They offered students allegedly good salaries of $150-200. We thought that we would not lose starting own business, because there was little difference between earning $150 and not earning at all. Thus, my fellow students and I decided to make own project. Some of my colleagues left at the very beginning, and the man, with whom we communicated little in the university, has been my partner for 15 years already.

How did you manage to keep partnership?

M. Ilyashev: I think it was due to our decency. Business conflicts arise because of greed and dishonesty, when people do not trust each other. Nothing like that happened, so we can conclude that we do not have these traits. Mutual trust and decency helped us to remain partners after all these years.

How did you begin to establish the firm?

M. Ilyashev: We rent a small office, had no employees and clients. We hired a secretary only a year after. Since we lacked clients initially, some fellow students left for advocacy and law firms. Some had no confidence in our ability to succeed, some thought the idea of own business as a mistake.

Now they probably regret it…

M. Ilyashev: I can’t say that any of people we began with are unsettled. Some made a good career under the lead of reputable lawyers, others came to the idea of own firm in 10 years. We are still on good terms.

Court and business

How did you find the clients?

M. Ilyashev: We started cooperating with a specialized law journal, i.e. provided legal services and wrote articles, and they advertised us in their edition. Clients followed soon. Sometimes there was so much work that we had to stay in office by 4-5 a.m. Although currently we have hired employees, partners are often the first to arrive and the last to leave.

Do you remember your first client?

M. Ilyashev: Sure, it is hard to forget. We still cooperate, and he is not aware of being the first.

What methods of persuasion did you use?

M. Ilyashev: Nothing special, we just spoke. When a person listens to you, analyzes your advice, he/she understands that appearance and age are not so important. It is knowledge that matters. I can hardly remember any communication with a client that did not result in the client’s sign up to work with the firm. If anybody does not cooperate with us, it means that we just did not talk to him. A client chooses a specialist according to some criteria and trusts him. All clients of one lawyer are often similar.

Now do you search for clients or do they find you?

M. Ilyashev: We never practiced active search of clients, i.e. advertising on lamp posts, standing near court building with a placard “We win all cases”, writing advertising letters or offering free of charge work. I believe a lawyer must not act like that. Obtrusiveness does you no good. Sure, we have targeted list of clients we’d like to work with. However, we will not bother a client with our offers – we have no time for it.

Have you ever been deceived?

M. Ilyashev: Sometimes clients do not provide all the information required. However, it happens not often. Serious customers understand that it is possible to provide effective legal defense only if your attorney knows all the facts, especially when it comes to court proceedings. In any case the facts will be disclosed in court. However, it is the client’s right to conceal information, since a lawyer is just an instrument to reach goal.

What cases are you proud of?

M. Ilyashev: I think that it is worth being proud of work that was meaningful to society. These cases include release of Ukrainian airliners AN-124 (“Ruslan”) in Canada and Belgium, representation of interests of the Russian company Altimo in a dispute with the Norwegian company Telenor Group regarding management of Kyivstar PJSC.

How often do you work pro bono?

M. Ilyashev: Not often. We do not search for such work specially, and we do not deal with commercial cases free of charge at all. However, we consult acquaintances, friends, their friends and relatives regularly…

How has the scope of work changed?

M. Ilyashev: Every business has its dynamics – steady growth, rapid growth, then again steady growth. I think we had the first burst of activity a few years after establishment. In five years we reached performance indices proving that our company was successful. We cast away any doubts that it was a good decision to start own business. During the first years this thought pursued us.

Is it inherent in you to doubt?

M. Ilyashev: It is the lawyer’s task. You constantly weigh all pros and cons, look for pitfalls and beware of deceit from your trustee’s contractor. They say a doctor treats every man as a sick man, a priest – as a sinner, a lawyer – as a criminal. Conducting any case you always doubt whether anybody tries to deceive your client.

Should you be practicing now?

M. Ilyashev: Yes, 100 percent. You can hardly manage a law firm without being a practicing lawyer. In our country laws change very quickly and to stay current with changes and evolutions in the law it is necessary to give close personal attention to the cases. In addition, a partner has to lead by example. How can you make your employees work overtime if you leave work at 6 p.m.? Subordinates are more likely to accept your role as manager if they respect you as a specialist in your field. Otherwise it will be impossible to manage, at least the lawyers.

What are your areas of practice?

M. Ilyashev: We deal with all business-related issues. Our areas of practice include corporate law, labor law, dispute resolution and international arbitration.

Personality

Were you self-confident when going to the first court session? Weren’t you afraid of making mistakes?

M. Ilyashev: Considering the deficient education in Ukraine, when theory is completely disintegrated with practical application, I surely worried. And it was correct. You never know when there is more responsibility – at the proceedings with UAH 5,000 or USD 1.5 bln at stake. Obviously, in the second case there is more risk to damage your professional reputation. Pride comes before a fall. Our viewpoint is: a lawyer has no right to mistake.

That’s a heavy load of responsibility…

M. Ilyashev: I think it is stimulating. There is the so-called ‘consultant syndrome’, when you are used to being asked for advice every day and feel uncomfortable when it breaks off.

They say lawyers often experience some psychological discomfort since they have to represent the faulty party. What about you?

M. Ilyashev: Firstly, you shouldn’t see only black and white. Life is full of undertone. Each party to a dispute is correct in a way. I haven’t met a man, who would come to an attorney and say: “I am a wicked man, I lied, help me to avoid responsibility”. People tell their stories, explain logic of their actions. Even a villain can justify himself in his eyes. Secondly, we are not judges. It is their job to try cases and make just decisions. Our task is to represent the client’s interests. Surely, at present we can refuse some case for ethical reasons. There is a threshold we would never compromise.

What kind of a man can start a law firm?

M. Ilyashev: As in any business, you have to be entrepreneurial. The company director has to look for development opportunities, be sociable and decent. It is especially important for a lawyer.

You practice in many areas. How did you manage to become a professional in so many branches of law?

M. Ilyashev: When we began, we had to take up almost any case. Ukrainian client is not interested in your area of practice, whether you know corporate law or all about intellectual property. He needs a lawyer able to represent his interests in any case. So, we had to learn the things we did not know, self-educate, get into every detail. For 15 years you are bound to become a professional in business-related industries. Certainly, unless you shift responsibility to other people. It should be noted that currently Europe faces big problem due to niche specialization of lawyers. They lack integral view of business process.

What makes a good director?

M. Ilyashev: Director leads the subordinate by example both professionally and personally.

Are you ready to begin again from the ground up?

M. Ilyashev: I have never thought about it and hope it never happens. I don’t think I am ready to repeat my endeavors. (Smiles) It is normal to begin once. It is hundred times more difficult to make a second attempt. I can hardly imagine how one can stand physically five classes at the university.

 
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