A Sense of Trust
"We do not separate our own success from the success of our client and we are sure that it is not the participation of an attorney but his victory in the case that should be remunerated", —Vitaliy Bobrynev, Managing Partner of Pragnum Law Firm, says
— What factors predetermined your choice of work in the format of a highly specialized law firm?
— In 2016 our firm celebrated its tenth anniversary. Our development and the choice of specialization are completely seamless: we just decided to concentrate all our efforts on the thing we do best of all and, among other things, bring us pleasure, namely, judicial disputes.
A lot of companies are engaged in judicial practice, combining it with other types of legal activities. As far as we are concerned, dispute resolution is the only thing that takes centre stage and, therefore, receives all the team's powers, energy and time.
Our office is saturated with a judicial spirit and I cannot help but notice that it is precisely it that enables us to attract really skilled practitioners who cannot live without judicial work. Our goal is to make Pragnum an ideal firm for the best litigators in the country and to turn the end of the career in our company into the stage for the beginning of a career as a judge.
The field of expertise also defines the format of our services. All our work is project-oriented: we do not provide support to the current activities of an enterprise and do not practice subscription services. Subsequently, we do not seek to obtain a monopoly on the client and get along perfectly well both with our market colleagues and with a client's in-house lawyers with whom we, as a rule, maintain non-competitive relations.
All in all, I think that the very aspiration for this balance has "cemented" the choice of such a non-typical path of development of a law firm for the Ukrainian market.
— What does the client receive from the narrow specialization of a legal advisor?
— My great grandfather, Professor Iosif Turovets, headed the Surgery Department at Bogomolets National Medical University for 20 years. What did his patients receive? They say that during the war he put people back together piece by piece. He was a real surgery enthusiast, a man devoted to medicine and a great humanist. I believe that medicine and jurisprudence have much in common and if we draw parallels, judicial practice is surgery in the work of an attorney.
First of all, the client receives a motivated attorney and not a stimulated one. We often substitute these notions. Dispute resolution (pre-trial or in judicial proceedings) requires extreme involvement in the problem, the wish not to only work off the fee, but to help and, sometimes, actually "save" the client. It is precisely this internal interest in a case that enables the attorney to do those impossible things that are necessary to attain success in complicated cases.
The client receives responsibility. When judicial practice is the only practice, the one that forms the firm, attorneys have a lot to lose. The loss of practice reputation is equal to the loss of the firm's reputation. That is why narrow specialization has no margin for error.
Because of the narrow specialization, we have changed the very principle of the provision of legal services in support of disputes. Work with clients is built on a partnership basis: we do not separate our own success from the success of our client and we are sure that it is not the participation of an attorney but his victory in the case that should be remunerated. Therefore, as a rule, we do not charge directly for participation in proceedings, we receive our fee after the actual execution of a judgment in the amount that usually does not exceed the amount of fines.
I am sure that the essential meaning of an attorney's activities during the period of implementation of reform of the judicial system is the formation of trust on the part of business in justice and in the actual attorney. And it is precisely the aforementioned principles that allow us to make a contribution to the implementation of this meaning.
— What kind of clients are you mostly focused on?
— By analogy with the judicial system, we do not pigeonhole clients by industries. It does not matter to the judge in what area the parties carry on their business. Only law firms providing a full package of services to business need industrial specialization. We resolve complicated conflicts that require, first of all, deep forensic expertise and the ability to build a long-term strategy dispute strategy, right up to planning its reputational consequences for the client.
— Could you give us specific examples?
— For example, we have a case in which we represent the interests of a small Ukrainian manufacturer in a dispute with Nord PJSC. All of us probably understand what it is to go into litigation with Nord on its territory. Nevertheless, due to a proven strategy and diversification of judicial processes, we have managed to neutralize the effects of administrative resources of influence and obtain the desired result. Now, we are fighting Privatbank for this plant's accounts.
SE Ukrspirt is another high-profile case. We have developed a strategy for the settlement of a number of disputes with the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine to the amount of more than 500 million UAH for this client. The scale of the project was so large that we had to carry out due diligence of the entire manufacturing process of this state enterprise. When drawing up the final recommendations, it was necessary to take into account not only the risks of dozens criminal proceedings that have been opened, but also the political will to privatize the monopolist.
Representing the Volvo Company, we were involved at the stage when the client was actually at the peak of the conflict with the contractor. The dispute, related to the payment of concealed works within a project to rebuild a building, required thorough scrutiny of the specificity of budgeting and relations with head office of this international group of companies.
As you can see, these are clients of various scale and from different industries, but each project is unique for us, we always take into account both the client and situations in which such client has found itself.
— What recommendations can you give to business on the basis of the most high-profile legal cases?
— The case involving KvazarMikro is amongst recent ones. We provide support to this company in the dispute with Ukrgazdobycha PJSC regarding the introduction of SAP software products. The very case itself (which includes several disputes and criminal proceedings) is not over yet, but even now we can draw a number of conclusions useful for the participants of similar conflicts, especially because disputes on the invalidity of a legal transaction, as one of the tools used in illegal takeover schemes, are gaining ever greater momentum in Ukraine.
Firstly, you should not rely on the reputation of your company. If a dispute arises between the parties (whether it is a simple fraud or illegal takeover), prior to the final judgment of the court the community prefers to remain neutral and assumes the position of an observer.
Secondly, you should consider every transaction in terms of its possible invalidity. Our country has such a culture of conclusion of agreements that any experienced lawyer can always find grounds to invalidate a transaction.
Thirdly, you should intervene in a dispute only after you have thought over its strategy. Disputes on invalidity have, as a rule, a complicated, multi-tier nature and resemble a game of chess. It is not important who will be the first to say "check", as your task is to put him in checkmate.
Fourthly, you should not forget about the risks of criminal prosecution. You should ensure in advance the safety of the basic source and other related documents: in a couple of years time it will be difficult to provide documentary evidence of the nature and scope of works/services.
Fifthly, if you come up against the use of administrative resource of influence or signs of corruption, you should make the case public. Publicity, along with appeal and cassation, is one of the few tools there are for combating abuse of power in courts.
— Discussing judicial practice in Ukraine, we cannot but touch upon the issue of corruption. What is your attitude to this problem?
— My attitude to the issue of corruption is cool. I do not like to dwell upon the ethical aspects of this problem. Far too much has been said about it. For me, corruption in the courts is that which nullifies the sense of the legal profession and devalues our services. It is like playing tennis following the rules of hockey. I do not live just for today, so am sure that within a few years we will realize that corruption undermines not only the sense, but the quality of our lives.