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Moscow office Managing Partner Victoria Bortkevicha tells us how history and an open-minded approach to opportunity took her on a different path to success.

A D V I C E   T O   M Y   Y O U N G E R   S E L F

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photo of Victoria Bortkevicha

Changing direction

Originally, I thought I would study Law and then move into business; I didn’t want to be a “proper” lawyer. But history interfered.

During my first year at university, Perestroika happened and ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, which changed the whole business environment. At that time, the British Council offered a program for Russian financiers: I passed the tests and went to London to do an internship at Clifford Chance. This was the turning point in my life and career.

What I found exciting back then still excites me today: in the field of law, there is something new every day. Your brain is constantly on the go, solving problems, creating unique solutions and thinking about what will best serve your clients.

Bringing in business

Moscow was a small office when I joined, so associates were required to bring in work. I am by nature a very open person, I enjoy meeting new people and establishing relationships, so networking wasn’t difficult.

My advice to young lawyers is not to view business development as a chore; doing so will prevent you from getting comfortable with it and enjoying the process.

Another key to success is active listening and being present in situations with clients. Coming to grips with what your clients actually need and understanding their business goals and motivations is vital.

Creating your own opportunities

Junior lawyers have a tendency to wait for instructions, but that approach will not help you reach your potential. It is each lawyer’s job to create opportunities. For junior lawyers who fear overstepping their boundaries while dealing with a client, I recommend observing your colleagues – then decide which approaches might work well for you.

Partners are habitually busy people, and may not have time to praise every bit of good work; however, they are required to address all bad work. Be your own publicist: when you’ve done good quality work, go and ask a partner for feedback. This will keep your spirits up and help create a positive impression that just might stick in that partner’s mind.

Getting there by a different route

My advice to my younger self would be: do not be afraid of change and embrace opportunities. As Milton Berle once said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” For example, in a global firm, secondments provide opportunities to practice temporarily in other jurisdictions. Take as many of these assignments as you can while you are young.

Also, don’t be afraid of the work-life balance issue. As the mother of four children, I found a way to have a normal family life too. Time management is fundamental − work smarter, not longer.

Finally, be open to where life takes you. Looking back, it’s ironic that I wanted to be a business woman, not a lawyer … and now, as Managing Partner of the Moscow office, I practice the business of law.