Interview with: Olha Prosyanyuk, Managing partner

Aver Lex | View firm profile

Olha Prosyanyuk explains how the firm is adapting to clients’ changing needs.

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

AVER LEX Attorneys At Law is the first WCC boutique in Ukraine focused at providing comprehensive legal defence in most complicated criminal and politically driven cases.

Our team consists of more than 30 attorneys with focused specialization. We have sufficient professional capacity to defend clients’ interests in several concurrent proceedings that involve a group of defendants/suspects/witnesses in several regions simultaneously. For example, the case of Oleksandr Onyshchenko, former Deputy of the Ukrainian Parliament, involved almost 30 suspects, who were simultaneously interrogated and searched in attorneys presence. In addition, attorneys’ team currently defends Viktor Yanukovych, the 4th President of Ukraine, and deals with 53 ongoing proceedings in various jurisdictions.

We have a significant experience in defending clients in cases of diverse complexity, even in no-win circumstances when clients do not hope to succed in defending their rights. At the same time, we handle unconventional cases and establish precedents for the future. Case of Viktor Yanukovych, the 4th President of Ukraine, was considered simultaneously with the adoption of a number of new laws that establish new procedures in the Ukrainian judiciary e.g. introduce special type of court review in absence of a defendant, as well as special seizure instrument.

By using creative legal solutions and our strong in-house PR team, we are ready to face illegal pressure on our clients made by both the state and their opponents; we fight for client’s interests all the way through. For example, funds and valuables amounting to UAH 9.5 million were stolen from our client’s personal safety deposit box. Bank’s representative failed to respond properly to attorneys’ and client’s claims for funds recovery. Therefore, the defence and in-house PR team made this situation public to draw maximum attention of the public and national media. As a result of comprehensive defence approach, attorneys managed to recover client’s funds in full.

We really love what we do and accept our responsibiluty for it. We do not compromise interest of our clients and make sure that the entire process is handled within legal framework. Thus far, the court took into account arguments and evidence presented by attorneys in Serhii Bochkovskyi’s case and recognised him as unlawfully dismissed as DSNS (State Emergency Service of Ukraine) Head, even though the case was politically influenced by Serhii Bochkovskyi’s political opponents.

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

Active development of White Collar Crime practice in Ukraine has begun several years ago when leading law firms started to set up separate criminal defence practices in addition to general litigation. Although 7 years ago criminal cases were handled by sole practitioners. Moreover, today criminal practice is not simply formed as an independent direction of legal services. It is possible to emphasize separate sub specializations with specific narrow-focused players and teams of the market.

We anticipate that the practice will be of high demand in the nearest future for several reasons.

  • Governmental policy aimed at combating corruption, which includes several directions:
  • introduction of anticorruption programs and establishment of new law enforcement agencies. At the same time, we may observe the tendency towards increase of the number insepead of improvement of the investigation quality. Many cases are far-fetched and commenced for certain reasons; therefore, after such case is referred to the court, the investigation cannot provide necessary evidence which result in “collapse” of the case. Furthermore, in most cases competences of such bodies overlap, hence they simultaneously or one after another investigate the same client;
  • cooperation with international, foreign authorities, organizations and legal firms in respect of protection of human rights and interests. The number of multi-jurisdiction proceedings increased significantly in 2018, which resulted in greater demand for strong partnerships with law firms in other countries. In addition, many international human rights organizations inquired into review of cases in Ukraine and carried out special monitoring thereof;
  • unfortunately, we should note significant number of fake criminal proceedings in terms of combating illegal gratification (bribery) by charging with unjust enrichment. Some ”targeted” persons are accused of accepting/offering bribes only on the basis of testimony of two or three strangers who allegedly handed over/accepted a “bribe”. Later on, after a detailed inspection, such persons turn out to be “agents” who are regulalrly involved in preparing respective applications and staging bribe transfers.
  • We expect a “traditional” increase of the number of investigations due to presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine in 2019. These factors prove that business and civil servants need a comprehensive and consistent defence of their rights in criminal cases.
  • Despite ongoing judicial reform in order to enhance trust in the judiciary, we can now observe escalated pressure on judges aimed at adopting “suitable” court decisions. In cases where judges start resisting such pressure, efforts are taken to dismiss them under fake reasons.

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

We have developed several training programs based on our most common cases in order to prepare clients for communication with law enforcement agencies and opponents up until an attorney arrives. Besides, other law firms, not having criminal practices, underwent our trainings, since cases when investigative actions are conducted in attorneys’ offices and places of residence have become more common.

Our clients can also get an “Emergency Aid”, i.e. service ensuring a 24/7 legal aid for clients.

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

Most situations in terms of criminal proceedings require attorneys be personally present and promptly react in order to duly defend client’s interests. This is the reason why use of communication technologies or rendering services in criminal practice will not have the same effect as in any other practice.

Thus far, we can assess efficient use of technologies in criminal practice aimed at securing limited access to information received from a client, as we ll as to elaborate defence algorithm both being an attorney-client privilege.

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

Criminal practice has its own specifics. In particular, one of the main tasks for attorneys is to preserve the business as a whole and subsequently ensure its proper operation. Most common cases of business attacks may include hostile takeover, fraudulent actions of partners or employees, or interest of state authorities, which may result in companies ceasing to exist or being owned by other persons.

One of our clients, a co-owner of a large pharmaceutical business, found himself in a conflict with his partner, which resulted in a risk of loosing his business. The unscrupulous partner enhanced commencement of a big number of fake criminal proceedings, which resulted in searches and property seizure. The proceedings were protracted, but attorneys managed to defend client’s interests and ensured that seized property was returned. Moreover, attorneys took preventive measures to ensure that such situations would never happen again in the future.

Another client of ours, engaged in a financial business, had a conflict with corrupted law enforcement officers interested in obtaining personal financial benefit. They repeatedly conducted searches; one of such searches ended up with destrustion of office walls. Due to timely interference of attorneys and prompt defense measures, attorneys succeed to defend and preserve client’s business. In addition, an emergency legal aid agreement was executed by the client, and attorneys protected his interests even when searches were conducted during non-working hours, at night. Preventive measures were also taken for this client in order to avoid similar situations in the future.

Unfortunately, such situations are quite common in Ukraine that is why timely legal aid and active response through preparation of numerous submissions to the competent authorities, collecting of evidence and publicity are of a great importance.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

AVER LEX is and will be Ukrainian leading WCC boutique providing legal services at the highest international standards. We intend to continue taking the most complex projects, and fighting for client’s interests all the way through by using creative solutions. We also plan to carry on establishing trust-based partnerships with foreign law and consulting firms by involving them into joint work on multi-jurisdiction projects.