Florian Schneider, Dentons Russia managing partner from 2012 to 2018, who specializes in corporate law, speaks to Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer about the firm’s year of success and innovation, despite the difficult economic market in Russia. A unique mentorship structure and technology lab set the firm apart, and have worked to secure its decade-long reputation. The firm received the 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" award for Labor and Employment Law in Russia.
What led you to join Dentons?
I joined Dentons in 2007. I got the offer at the right moment, although I was very committed to my old firm. I was working for a German law firm and I received the offer from Dentons when the German firm was having difficulty deciding how to develop their partnership. This was right before the 2008 financial crisis, so my business was actually very good. I saw it as both a professional and a personal opportunity to move from a German law firm to an international law firm. When I finally did move, I brought 10 other lawyers with me. I think that was a big move within Moscow, from one law firm to another.
"The key is winning new clients and showing that we are better than our competitors."
What achievements stand out to you from this past year?
We have now been ranked at the top in employment by all major international and local rankings for almost 10 years. Employment and migration law matters have been one of our core strengths in Russia and Kyiv for going on 27 years. Marina Ryzhkova, the head of our Russian labor law practice, is a highly regarded attorney with a very strong reputation on the market. Our clients value the quality of our advice, the depth of our experience, our responsiveness, and high efficiency of our team. We work in ordinary matters concerning medicine, employment, and labor, but we are also experts in complicated scenarios involving structuring staff reductions, transfers, and managing labor law disputes with individuals and larger workforces. This history and our endurance as a firm is something for us to be quite proud of.
Can you tell me a little bit about your firm’s mentorship program for the Russia office and how you support practicing attorneys?
We have several mentorship and education programs. At the local level, we run a traditional mentorship system through the heads of practice groups. We also have educational training at an office level through a summer program dedicated to junior and mid-level associates. This continuing work is very helpful. Finally, we also have regional level e-learning programs. These have been developed especially for Dentons associates and counsels. Our firm won an award for this online training program, which is called the Senior Associate Development Program. This training takes place once a year. I am one of the many mentors in these programs, where senior associates prepare for partnerships, learn how to develop clients, how to improve their client service, and how to work with their peers.
How does Dentons stay agile against competitors when you do labor and employment bills?
Our labor and employment practice lawyers are very engaged and result-oriented, so we are always looking for solutions for our clients. We also have concrete experience and a long history working this sort of cases, which gives us perspective and gives a better understanding of what is happening in the field, especially with labor laws. The profound experience of our attorneys like Marina Ryzhkova, who already has more than 20 years with the firm, really sets us apart. With all the experience she has earned over the last two decades, the fact that she has stayed with the firm adds to our excellent reputation. The key is winning new clients and showing that we are better than our competitors.
Is there anything you want to share about your firm, either for this practice area or the groups that you are particularly proud of?
Despite the impact of the economic and political situation on the Russian economy, our firm strengthened its Russian practice in both 2017 and 2018. We hired three more partners in 2017 and one counsel became partner, so in effect, four new partners joined us in 2017. We also hired 17 new lawyers, and became the biggest law firm tax practice in Russia. We are becoming stronger even during this crisis. We have tried to attract the best clients on the market and our local reputation has surely helped with that, but of course the Dentons brand itself is working and enables us to attract the best people. We have shown creativity in the digital arena and developed the Dentons’ Russia Legal Innovations Laboratory. This is oriented toward developing and implementing innovative technologies in the field of legal tech. We assisted the Federation of Computer Sports of Russia with creating a legal framework for e-sports. Dentons is the most active law firm in the working groups to implement the “Digital Economy of the Russian Federation” state program. A year ago, our lawyers drew up the draft of the first international robotics act in the world and also created the first concept for regulation of the Internet of Things in Russia. I would say that these were the highlights of our development over the last two years.