1. Hi Dmitry, would you mind recalling us briefly your background?
I would say that my experience is somewhat classic for an expat working in Paris. I completed my undergraduate degree at the Moscow State University of International Relations (a.k.a. MGIMO), where I specialized in Public International Law and also learnt the French language. As I had always wanted to get into a Master program abroad so as to see a different perspective on education and live different places, I joined Sciences Po Paris to do the Master program in Economic Law, consisting of the first year of pure French law and the second focusing on international business law and arbitration. As part of this program I did a gap year which I used to spend an unforgettable semester at the New York University School of law, where I initially got interested in arbitration.
After graduating from Sciences Po, I completed two internships with the amazing arbitration
teams of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Dechert in Paris. Finally, I obtained my qualification as a registered lawyer in Russia in October 2016 after which I joined Derains & Gharavi as an associate.
2. From your perspective, what are the benefits of working in a boutique firm comparing it to a big firm?
I would say that the main advantage when you work in a boutique firm as a young lawyer is a much bigger exposure to interesting and challenging work. Given that you have fewer people than arbitration teams of the biggest international law firms with a comparable number of high profile cases, you naturally get a lot of responsibility from Day 1. It is actually very exciting, as you get extensively involved at all the stages of the arbitration proceedings and get to have direct contact with clients, experts, third party funders and even the tribunal, which is extremely enriching professionally. You also get to participate in the proceedings from the both sides of the table, both as counsel representing the firm’s client, or assisting your partners serving as arbitrators. Such diversity of the experience is definitely the biggest advantage that you get working in a small boutique firm.
3. You participated to the Willem C. Vis International Arbitration Moot as a mootie and as an arbitrator, what did you learn through this experience and to what extent do you think young practitioners can benefit from moots in general?
I would say that Vis Moot was the first real “practical” experience that I got in arbitration. The competition is by far more educating and prepares better for your future profession than any workshops and classes you get at the university. The structure of the competition is such that it takes you through some of the main stages of an arbitration proceedings, albeit in a very concise and simplified form, – conducting a thorough legal research, drafting the submission, and preparing for oral hearing – this is the crux of what arbitration lawyers do throughout their career. I can say that after Vis Moot I was much better prepared to excel during my internship in arbitration than I would have been if I did not go through a moot experience. And moreover, this is a great social event where you meet great people from all over the world and even sometimes have the luck of having a renowned arbitration practitioner sitting as arbitrator during your team’s pleadings.
On the other hand, when you “switch the sides” and become arbitrator, you get a wholly different perspective. When you already have some experience both in mooting and in real life work, it is very satisfying to share your insights with younger colleagues, helping them to improve their
skills and become better at what they do. And let’s be honest, judging the moot gets no less fun than pleading the case yourself.
4. Can you tell us more about the lifestyle and the work pace of an arbitration lawyer?
Working in arbitration implies an intense rhythm, I think it is not a secret to anyone. Although it might appear much more predictable and organized compared to other areas of law, as major dates in an arbitration proceedings are normally fixed by a procedural calendar. In practice a lot of things can happen such as extensions, unexpected requests for provisional measures from the other side or a new client lingering on the horizon to which you urgently need to send a pitch – all of these things keep you up and alert constantly and definitely do not leave much time to procrastinate. Late nights and working on the weekends are not uncommon, although you
do get some calm periods too. I would say that a lot depends on the firm you happen to work at and the way in which the team organizes its work, as well as on your own time-management skills.
5. Do you have any tips for young people who want to start their arbitration career?
I might sound a bit overly banal, but the best advice I can give is whether you are looking for your first internship, or already for an associate position, use your network, as well as the opportunities that your university gives you to their fullest. As a foreigner, it was not obvious to me to orient myself on the Paris job market and all my internships came through either professors that taught at Sciences Po, or through job fairs that were organized by the school. Contacts you once make can turn out to be useful at the most unpredictable moment, so never lose sight of your old acquaintances. Last thing is that you should never think that you are not “good enough” for something. Always aim for the best and be prepared for the best, because all the efforts eventually pay off.