- Denys, your company, VB PARTNERS, designates itself in the market as a legal boutique – that namely, provides services in one or more narrow practices. Tell us, is it possible to compete with full-cycle law firms? If so – how?
This year VB PARTNERS was recognized as a LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR in Criminal Defense according to the Best Lawyers research. We are proud that our colleagues appreciate our efforts so highly. It is doubly gratifying that a team of 12 attorneys competes so effectively with firms that integrate 20-40 criminal lawyers.
I highlight a few key conditions that preceded our success.
First and foremost – we have assembled a team of extra professionals. A prerequisite is the unity of our goals and values. The resulting synergy turns a simple association of lawyers into a team.
The second is high standards and perfectly honed business processes. Every stage is important – from the methodology of forming a position in the case to the algorithm of junior staff. Uncompromising quality and obsession with your job are key requirements.
The third is the focus on the interests of the Client. Sincerity of intentions, desire for success, constant desire for self-improvement. This position is mandatory for everyone – both for the founding partner and for the legal secretary.
The opening of White-Collar Crime practice is becoming a trend for full-service law firms. Of course, large companies have a number of advantages. At the same time, “burnished”, brilliant law firms` brands are forced to take into account the reputational risks for the company when they undertake to protect the “bad guy”, person or business, who are criminals in the eyes of society.
Our prerogative is exclusive quality and focus on customer needs, combined with a willingness to take appropriate risks that go along with their problem.
- How has the practice of White-Collar Crime (WCC) changed in Ukraine today? What areas are in focus and in demand?
WCC is being actively developed and structured today. Within its limits, there are four main directions:
- protection of business from illegal influence of law enforcement agencies;
- crimes in the business sphere (tax evasion, embezzlement, fraud, etc.);
- anti-corruption investigations and investigations related to state assets;
- cross-border investigations, extradition and Interpol.
A separate segment is the representation of the interests of businesses that have suffered from the actions of unscrupulous counterparties or the State.
Further strengthening of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU)/ Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO), expansion of their regulatory and technical capabilities, as well as the active work of High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC) will be a key trend in WCC practice in the coming years. Detectives and prosecutors of SAPO learn quickly and develop new approaches of investigating WCC crimes.
An interesting trend is the active use of international cooperation as a means of gathering evidence. The geography of NABU cooperation is wide – at least 64 countries. Their proceedings are complex in nature, require considerable time, the work of a group of attorneys and assistants.
The special focus of law enforcement agencies is State resources. Any transaction with a State asset (from ordinary procurement to privatization of a large object) is a potential criminal proceeding.
- Tell us about VB PARTNERS HR policies? How do you select employees for the company? What qualities / characteristics do you pay attention to? What should be “your” WCC-attorney?
If you claim the title of “the best”, then your expertise and service must be impeccable. The result of the work should not just meet the expectations of the Client, it must exceed them.
Criteria of “our” attorney: perfect knowledge of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine and judicial practice; a new demand – a knowledge of anti-corruption legislation; high skills of written and oral communication, as well as public speaking. A separate wish is an additional area of expertise: taxes, securities, real estate and land, a deep understanding of corporate law and antitrust regulation.
Our company has implemented a system of educational initiatives of various levels. Every quarter, attorneys undertake training and independent evaluation. Every six months – an assessment of all staff on a scale of 10 different criteria. Based on it, we identify strengths and weaknesses, form a plan of personal development.
We fully stimulate the development of leadership qualities. In particular, we have implemented a five-level leadership system. We took as a basis the approach of Jim Collins book “Good to great”. Each level has a number of criteria, and each team member can independently determine where he/she is and develop a plan of movement to the top.
- Is there competition within the company? If so, does it help to improve?
We do not compete with each other, we compete with our procedural opponents, sometimes with colleagues in the market. The key motive for our attorneys is the opportunity of professional realization and work with the most challenging and complex cases. We are guided by the well-known principle: “Grow or Go”.
It is also motivating that the window of career opportunities is open – every attorney can become a partner.
Transparency in financial incentives is one of the key elements. Extra efforts of lawyers and administrative staff should be converted into bonuses. There should be a simple and clear system of remuneration, framed into the relevant officially approved policy.
- What path should be taken in the company to become a partner?
To become a partner of the company, you must meet 5 clear criteria.
Firstly, the potential partner must share the goals and values of the company and proactively move in a given direction.
The second criteria of compliance is the extra professionalism. First of all, which concerns our key practices.
Thirdly, the candidate partner must also have its own additional specialization. In this way, he creates a separate expert value for the whole team. It is important that his expertise is recognized in the market among colleagues and Clients, in particular by the relevant authoritative ratings.
The fourth criteria is the ability to manage projects. You do not just have to do a good job, but be a leader, manager. Often projects can consist of several cases at the same time, and the project team – more than of 3 lawyers.
The fifth and final criteria is excellent communication skills. A potential partner must be able to build relationships with their own team, recognize and develop the talents of younger colleagues. Of course, the most important thing is the ability to develop relationships with existing customers, creating additional value for them, and the ability to attract new customers.
If all five criteria coincide in one person, then undoubtedly such an attorney has every chance to become a partner of VB PARTNERS.
The affiliate plan is open to anyone in our company. The transition to a partnership position usually takes place in several stages. The path begins with the position of a lawyer, a senior lawyer. The project manager already has the opportunity to practice their management skills. The next stage is the position of the counselor, who is already growing in the direction of Client work. The last stage is a partner who has passed all phases of career formation and meets the already mentioned criteria.
- Tell us, from a technical point of view, how do you work on projects within the WCC? What is the structure of the WCC case project team? What is your role in WCC projects?
I will start with the partner role in the group. It may often seem from the outside that the partner is not directly involved in the project. However, this approach is not about our company. One of the key requirements of VB PARTNERS is the direct participation of the partner, namely as an attorney.
The group is formed primarily of a leading attorney who is responsible for all work. He is responsible for creating the strategy and it`s alignment with the Client. The group also includes 2-3 attorneys, depending on the scope of the case and its nature. For example, I often work in a group with fellow partners when my expertise in banking is needed.
Junior lawyers are also involved in the group. They are directly involved in the preparation of procedural documents, search of information and its structuring, preparation of worksheets, etc. The presence of a legal secretary in the group is mandatory. Today we are actively implementing the idea of maximum transfer of non-legal work from junior lawyers to legal secretaries.
- Share with us your plans for next year. What goals do you set for yourself and the team?
We plan to continue to be №1 in WCC practice and occupy top positions in Dispute Resolution.
We continue to actively develop corporate investigation practice and build a broad partnership network with key Western partners. We already conduct dozens of investigations a year, so I am confident that in the near future this practice will become one of the priorities in our company.
Another of our tasks for the next few years is to expand the team of attorneys. In particular, we plan to increase the number of partners of the company, including through internal resources.
If we talk about the prospect of the next five years – the formation of the largest “monofirm” in the Ukrainian market with a wide network of international contacts is planned.