The Ukrainian legal market is living in times of change and promise. Being a successful law firm in Ukraine is not an easy task, but for those who know the rules, the changing landscape presents more opportunities than threats. So, what does the Ukrainian legal market look like now?
It has been over a year since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation became mandatory across Europe, marking a seismic shift in the way that companies collect, process, and handle personal data. Countries across the European Union and beyond have adapted their national laws to meet the requirements of the GDPR – with many introducing local derogations as permitted by the GDPR.
Ukraine is a leading producer and exporter of agricultural products, and agribusiness is the driving force of the country’s economy, as almost 40% of overall foreign currency earnings which come in to the state budget relate to agricultural exporters. The industry grows every day, engaging ever-more investments from both national and foreign participants. Nonetheless, the relevant logistics and infrastructure requires improvement, as does the quality of applicable legal framework.
Adam Mycyk, a Ukrainian-American from the United States, is a partner in Dentons’ Kyiv office, and he has nearly 25 years of experience advising both Ukrainian and international companies, banks, investment banks and a range of other financial institutions and investors.
The judicial system of Ukraine has transformed in recent years at an unprecedented scale and speed, and new procedural legislation has been adopted in the civil, economic, and administrative codes. In addition, the Supreme Court was elected for the first time through a competitive procedure, and the structure of the courts was reformatted into a three-level system. Judges of all levels are undergoing re-qualification. An attorney-at-law “monopoly” on representing others in court has been introduced. All of these fundamental changes are occurring in a revolutionary way and in a very short time period.
After a number of important improvements to Ukrainian corporate legislation in 2017, such as the introduction of squeeze-out and sell-out procedures for joint stock companies and the concept of shareholder agreements, reform of the country’s corporate legislation is continuing, with even more significant transformations in 2018.
International arbitration is often perceived as a preferred method for international dispute resolution, due to its time/cost efficiency as well as enforceability of awards. On the other hand, enforcement of an arbitration award can be rather challenging for the parties – especially if recognition and enforcement is sought in countries like Ukraine, because for a long time, the Ukrainian judiciary has been criticized for its inefficiency and overly bureaucratic approach. However, Ukraine is on its way to changing that.
2018 has been an enjoyable year for those wanting the Ukrainian legislator to improve the country’s corporate legal framework. Since limited liability companies (LLCs) and joint stock companies (JSCs) are the most frequent forms of business in Ukraine, improvement in this direction appears to be especially important. On June 17, 2018, the Law on Limited and Additional Liability Companies (the “LLC Law”) came into force, completely replacing the outdated regulation of LLCs. Moving to JSCs, the legislator adopted a law that amended several legal acts regulating these companies and the stock market in general (the “JSC Law”). Below we will outline these major changes in the Corporate Governance in Ukraine.
If one is an example, two is a coincidence, and three is a trend, the three major law firm mergers in Ukraine this past summer demand closer scrutiny.
On July 9, 2018, the CEE Legal Matters website reported the merger of the Avellum and A.G.A. Partners law firms in Ukraine. A month later, the website reported on a second merger, this time between Asters and EPAP, the Ukrainian office of Russia’s Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners. And in September the website reported on yet another merger, between Integrites and Pravochyn. To explore these significant changes in the market, on October 26, 2018, CEE Legal Matters sat down with a collection of prominent Ukrainian lawyers — including several from firms directly involved in the summer’s mergers — at the Kyiv office of DLA Piper.