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Roman Marchenko’s Rules for Life

Date of publication: 1 June 2021

Source: Ukrainian Lawyer

Roman Marchenko’s professional career began back in 1994 — while still studying at the Institute of International Relations, he took his first steps as a junior legal adviser and quickly made it to the legal adviser. But a few years later, the ambitious 22-year-old young man co-founds his own law firm, which is to occupy a leading position in the market in future. Today Roman Marchenko, Attorney at Law, Senior Partner at Ilyashev & Partners Law Firm and Honored Lawyer of Ukraine, is a recognized expert in dispute resolution and international arbitration. He has experience working as Deputy of the Kyiv City Council, Vice-President of the Ukrainian Law Firms Association and Chairman of the Arbitration Court, as well as successful implementation of complex projects. We are always genuinely interested in how successful lawyers think. Therefore, we asked him to shed light on the secrets of his success and share his own views on the profession and life in general.

Defining event in my life was, of course, the choice of profession. As early as in my second year at the Institute of International Relations, I started working: early 90s were difficult, the scholarship was not enough even for a student travel card. And, when I received my first salary as a lawyer, which by the way exceeded my scholarship dozens of times, I realized that this profession, fortunately, will give me way more than the interesting work.

For the first time realized what is to be a lawyer, perhaps, in 1994, when I came to the then arbitration court to represent the interests of my client and felt real pressure and responsibility for the fate of the client, for his case, for the final result.

I know how hard it is for a lawyer, especially a young one, to make a decision to establish their own law firm. Mikhail Ilyashev and I made it back in 1997. It was difficult to dare: it is one thing to be an employee and receive regular salary, and another to find yourself responsible for all and everything. And not only for ourselves, but also for the employees hired. The first six months of working for ourselves we did not earn, but literally took money from home to support the company. And, here I can tell you, my wife was not happy about it, mildly speaking. Today, 24 years after Ilyashev & Partners has been established, I can say: then, in 1997, we were desperate daredevils. But in our case, the risk paid off, because now Ilyashev & Partners is a successful team, ranked among TOP-3 law firms in Ukraine.

I have always believed that the head of a law firm cannot manage lawyers if he does not practice himself. Despite the huge administrative burden of senior partners, we need to continue the actual jurisprudence, go to courts, and develop professionally.

Success for me is the result of many years of stable work of a large friendly team of Ilyashev & Partners. Most of our lawyers and attorneys have been staying with the firm for 5 to 20 years. The longevity secret of Ilyashev & Partners is, first of all, our staff: today, 150 employees at seven offices in three countries work for the overall success of the company.

Most important thing in life is family. Throughout the 27 years of my work as a lawyer I have experienced different periods: very often I had to sacrifice my personal time for work, including spending nights at office. Today, of course, we have an easier time: we pulled together a large professional team that will always lend a shoulder. It is quite difficult but very important to find a balance between professional and personal life.

Those who strive for a good career must find themselves first. The times of multihyphenates are long gone. Today it is of paramount importance for a lawyer to have a clear specialization. Which exactly? Depends on what the lawyer is interested in. Now one can make a good career in their favorite specialization both in private and public sectors. A wonderful example is Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Olha Stefanishyna, who is the EU law expert beyond compare. Ms Olha worked in this field both in public sector and in private legal business: she worked with us at Ilyashev & Partners, and it was from our firm that she took ‘sabbatical leave’ to work for the Government.

I would like to see in my team, first of all, smart and professional people. We could and should talk about various human qualities, but ultimately the attorney solves the client’s problem by independent intellectual work. So, the professionalism comes first.

Secret of a successful partnership is to sacrifice self-interest for the common cause. In any controversial situation, you should ask yourself: “What is best for the case?”. If you are willing to put the firm first and compromise on your personal interests, things will come right.

Sweetest victory is the one you headed for long and heavily. Fortunately, I had many in my professional life. For example, our team managed to return EUR 1.5 billion stolen from BTA Bank (Kazakhstan). We have been handling this case for 12(!) years in different jurisdictions in Europe and throughout the world.

Problems that are interesting to solve are the most difficult tasks that no one has solved before. For example, last year Ilyashev & Partners successfully represented Ukraine in the first interstate dispute under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Also, this year, we provided legal support and counseling in the process of redelegation of the domain name Ukraine.ua to the Government of Ukraine to host a modern digital portal about Ukraine for the foreign audience. The more complex the clients’ tasks are, the more interesting it is to deal with them.

Thing that motivates me most is the success of the client we have helped.

And our peer competitors – breathing down neck – do not allow us to relax and help us keep the tone. Ilyashev & Partners is a recognized leader, for example, in litigation, arbitration, international trade, etc., but other law firms do not trail far behind either and form a worthy competition.

Everything will be all right: within 30 years of independence, a new creative and fire-proof generation has grown up in Ukraine, which is not afraid of any cataclysms whatsoever. I am sure we will be strong and wealthy. Glory to Ukraine!