For the attorneys at Bougartchev Moyne Associés—France’s 2020 “Law Firm of the Year” honoree in Criminal Defense Law—success has arrived in a very short period of time. Kiril Bougartchev and Geoffroy Goubin joined Phillip Greer, CEO of Best Lawyers, to discuss how quickly they have grown, the work they have done on behalf of clients and how they will continue to scale their practice.
What is it about criminal business law that gets you excited to go to work every day?
Kiril Bougartchev: Firstly, the cases we work on are complex matters, combining numbers and law, meaning that defining the best strategy necessarily requires an understanding of these two aspects.
Next, the stakes of such cases have become colossal, whether in monetary terms or for our clients' image.
Moreover, this is an area where defending companies, banks or financial institutions does not exclude the possibility of very high stakes on a human level.
Finally, the cases that we deal with systematically have an international dimension, which means educating oneself in foreign legal systems. Taken together, it is a fascinating subject.
Geoffroy Goubin: The answer can be very long, but to make it short, it's the fact that every day is a different day. You arrive in the morning and you don't know what you're going to do. One day, a client calls you because he has just been put in custody, and you have to run to assist him. Another day, you will have to run to court for an emergency hearing or you have to deal with defamatory campaign against your client. All cases are very different. Morevover, even if we are mainly dealing with white-collar crime cases, the industry involved, the clients involved, the personality, of course, of the clients and the matters themselves, they are all different. So I think what is very exciting is that every day, you come, you don't know what you're going to do and all matters and cases are very different.
You opened your firm just a couple of years ago. You’ve received accolades like “Law Firm of the Year” in a very short time. Did you anticipate success happening this quickly?
KB: You can never anticipate success to happen and I am very grateful to our clients and colleagues for trusting us this way.
In fact, we have doubled the number of legal entities as clients in two years and significantly increased the number of individuals. I guess this is the sign that our firm is well recognized in the market in our four practice areas (white-collar crime / compliance & regulatory / civil & commercial litigation / internal & external investigations). Moreover, we have noticed that some clients prefer to work with French boutiques (rather than foreign international law firms). Finally, it goes without saying that we are less exposed to conflicts of interest and much more flexible regarding price policy, especially with historical clients.
Colleagues (either international law firms or boutiques) have also become our main source of new clients. They call us each time they face conflicts of interests or have to build a strong legal team, which is very often the case, especially in white-collar crime matters. They know we work as the litigation departments of international law firms and therefore share the same standards. And, of course, they do not fear that we are going to steal their clients in different practices as we only focus on litigation. As a result, over the last 18 months, almost 80 percent of our new clients were sent by colleagues.
This said I think I can claim that our firm is quite unique in the French market. After having been the first to create a white-collar crime department in an international firm, we are the first lawyers with such experience to have left a large firm to create a specialist firm dedicated to litigation. Our team of 15 lawyers includes, in addition to the two partners, nine highly trained and bilingual associates and four legal interns, capable of dealing with the same issues to the same exacting standards and responsiveness as in large firms, but with greater flexibility with respect to our clients.
Your firm handles some very high-profile clients and major players in the global business community. One of the specialties listed on your site is crisis management and damage to reputation. When the world is seemingly ending for a client, how do you maintain your composure and keep them calm during the process?
KB: Great availability, key contacts and, of course, in-depth expertise of both our client, his market and law are key to face crisis management and damage to reputation.
Also, the fact that we are a large team—which is not common in the white-collar crime market in Paris—facilitate our capacity to be 100 percent available for our client in case of crisis.
Are there any projects or upcoming work you are particularly excited about?
KB: We are currently building a very strong “best friends” network, primarily in the US (NYC, DC) and in the UK but with the ambition to expand it all around the world (Russia, Brazil, Singapore, Middle East, etc.). In this respect, law firms of all sizes continue to be our main source of work.
Next, we will continue to develop our practice in matters of Compliance/Internal and regulatory investigations, which has now become our second largest area after white-collar crime and is still growing. We will also be putting emphasis on disputes in commercial and equity financing matters.
Finally, we have an eye on controlling our growth, reserving a future to our associates.