20 Barrister 27 (1993-1994)
To Kiev, with Law

handle is hein.journals/barraba20 and id is 79 raw text is: TO KIEV, WITH LAW

Alex Frishberg
helps companies
invest in the Ukraine
E stablishing a private law prac-
tice is always challenging. But
imagine setting up shop where of-
fice space, phones, and furniture are
scarce and laws change almost daily.
Those are just some of the obsta-
cles 30-year-old Alex Frishberg faced
when he left a promising career at
Hogan & Hartson in Washington,
D.C., to found Grishenko, Frishberg
& Paliashvili in the Ukranian capital
of Kiev in 199 1.
I met my partners [Dimitri Grish-
enko and Irina Paliashvili] in Wash-
ington just after the [Soviet] coup in
August, and we agreed to the plan
in September, Frishberg recalls. I
had been doing business in Kiev [as
an associate for Hogan & Hartson]
and knew there were no law firms.
I saw an opportunity. It was as easy
as calling my partners and asking,
'Will you quit your job if I quit mine?'
It vas on that oral promise alone
that I came to Kiev.
Though he arrived in Ukraine in
October, it took until January to find
an office, and until September to
move into the Lenin Street space in
downtown Kiev that now houses
Grishenko, Frishberg & Paliashvili.

It is a completely different situ-
ation from that in the West where
everything is available, explains
Frishberg, a native of Kiev who im-
migrated to St. Louis, Missouri, with
his parents and grandmother when
he was 12. It's impossible to get of-
fice space.., and it's difficult to get
furniture, telephones, telephone
lines, and reliable help. You have to
have contacts.
Thanks to prior experience with
clients interested in establishing
business relationships with coun-
tries in the former U.S.S.R., Frish-
berg-a 1988 graduate of Washing-
ton University Law School in St.
Louis-possessed the contacts and
the knowledge needed to start the
fledgling law firm.
When his partners, and his wife,
Ashleigh Loufer (who had stayed be-
hind in Washington to complete law
school at George Washington Uni-
versity), arrived in the fall of 1992,
the managing partner had every-
thing in place.
And just one year after the coup
that had been Frishberg's catalyst,
business at Grishenko, Frishberg &
Paliashvili-a corporate boutique
specializing in privatization, real es-
tate, taxes, currency regulations, and
the formation of joint ventures-be-
gan.
Today, eight lawyers (including
Loufer) work in the firm's three-
room office, imparting advice to for-

eign investors on how to structure
business and real estate transactions
in ways that will minimize risks and
place them ahead of their Western
competitors.
Things are going fantastically
well! exclaims the multilingual at-
torney who counts KLM Royal Dutch
Airlines, Electricity de France, and
Alcatel (a French telecommunica-
tions firm for which Frishberg is ne-
gotiating a joint venture transaction
with a large state-owned factory)
among his firm's clients. But it is
very hectic, because obtaining in-
formation about new laws and de-
termining how to interpret those
lavs is very difficult. Everything
changes so rapidly.
According to Frishberg, laws in
Kiev mean little without the sup-
porting instructions that emanate
from the Cabinet of Ministries in the
form of decrees. Laws often are en-
forced before supporting instruc-
tions are released.
Ironically, while practicing law in
Ukraine is tough, getting a license to
do so is easy. Frishberg did nothing
more than go before the Ministry of
Justice and prove he was a lawyer
in good standing in Washington to
obtain the necessary certificate.
He did, however, have to take the
Ukranian State Property Fund exam
to become certified to advise clients
on privatization.
In addition to the 80 to 100 hours
a week he dedicates to Grishenko,
Frishberg & Paliashvili, Frishberg
devotes time to the American Cham-
ber of Commerce in Kiev.
He is legal counsel chair of the
organization's Legal Government
Relations and Economic Commit-
tee and works on the monthly
Ukranian Legal Bulletin-a 50-page
newsletter that's distributed to
chamber members and the U.S. De-
partment of Commerce for free.
Of his experience, Frishberg says:
Practice is about 80 percent of the
law here. There are usually two or
three ways of interpreting a law,
which leaves a lot of questions. What
the [written] law says doesn't matter
... it's the bureaucrats' interpreta-
tions. What counts is what they will
accept.
- Kathleen Furore
YOUNG LAWYERS DIVISION 27

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