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Sofiya Zhylkaidarova, Managing partner

SIGNUM managing partner Ms Zhylkaidarova comments on SIGNUM's unique approach, expected changes and trends in legal consultancy

What do you see as the main points that differentiate your firm from your competitors?

We are now one of the leading firms in Kazakhstan, consistently highly rated and appreciated by our clients for our outstanding reputation and professional ethical standards. Our strongly performing team can provide world-class services and is unique with its out-of-the-box thinking when providing legal and business solutions. Being a boutique law firm, we are closer to the clients’ needs and requirements and can offer an individual approach to each client that is very different from our competitors. Our clients enjoy the variety of our services with competitive fees and rates.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

We believe that M&A will continue to steadily grow this year notwithstanding the poor economic situation, as investors would be particularly interested in distressed assets for extremely low prices. Dispute resolution and employment are the two other practices which we expect to grow here in Kazakhstan. The main drivers behind this are recently revised regulatory and legal environments and as a result a greater demand for narrow expertise in these two areas.

What's the main change you've made in the firm that will benefit clients?

We have recently made a major overhaul of our practice materials and have developed standard forms for most of the documents to more effectively help our clients with their day-to-day routine issues. This year, we contemplate launching a training centre for our clients, which we envision would be a venue both for experience and knowledge sharing among the clients and our team of trainers, and polishing both soft and technical skills. Last year, we launched our firm’s new state of the art website, which is now user-friendly and enables us to better communicate with our clients and to potentially find IT solutions to better servicing our clients.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

We certainly closely follow IT development in the legal market. We are currently reviewing new software that would allow online case management for our dispute resolution practice. In addition, we are constantly updating client communication tools, the internal record keeping and administrative procedures through various IT solutions, which will eventually allow us to more efficiently serve our clients and promptly address their immediate needs.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

On a daily basis, we add value to our clients’ business, be it an M&A deal (with proper tax planning and structuring, effectively negotiating and coordinating the deal among the client, other advisors, counter-parties and government officials, protecting client’s interests and meeting its business needs to the maximum extent possible), or a dispute resolution case (by saving millions of dollars for our clients in tax assessment and contractual claims).

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms - where do you see the firm in three year's time?

Indeed, the clients with long-term and strategic vision expect that their law firms also have long-term goals and act not only as legal advisers but more so as business advisors. In three years’ time, we envision further solid growth of our lawyers both personally and professionally. Our team is our main asset, and we strongly believe that it is important the firm supports each and every lawyer in their professional and personal development. We also aim to work towards expanding to other areas of law to meet new challenges and new client’s needs and requirements. We are certain that our firm will be a confident and stable champion in the local legal market for its excellent reputation, high quality and client-oriented approach. And last but not least, we plan to further expand internationally by increasing our network with international and foreign law firms to jointly and efficiently help our clients’ businesses grow.

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