Most of you remember the wise proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step …”
Examples include building a successful career in a Big Law Firm, writing scripts for a TV movie series, sustaining and building relationships based on honesty, tolerance and serenity in business and private life.
In this issue Bakhytzhan Kadyrov, Senior Lawyer in Morgan Lewis and PwC Alumni is sharing the secrets of his work and life balance with us…
Richard Bregonje, PwC TLS Partner: When exactly did you leave PwC and join Morgan Lewis?
Bakhytzhan: I left in July 2007 and joined Morgan Lewis at the same time. At first it was LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. Later they merged and became Dewey & LeBoeuf. More recently Almaty and Moscow offices were purchased by Morgan Lewis.
Richard: Can you describe the main changes you saw between PwC and law firm? It is also interesting to hear how you went through all the mergers.
Bakhytzhan: Conceptually, I think PwC and Morgan Lewis are more or less the same. We both provide consulting services. You do it more narrowly and deeply in tax, we do all kinds of things, including tax. My impression from PwC is that it’s more structured meaning that when an assignment comes, it usually goes to a consultant rather than to director or partner. Here we just have associates and partners, 14 people in Almaty office. Lawyers here do more drafting, more negotiations and corporate work.
In terms of internal integration, there were not a lot of changes for me. LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae - the first firm I came to - actually set up the office in Almaty in 1995. It was a middle-sized US firm with a specific emphasis on insurance services and some oil and gas. Dewey & LeBoeuf, in turn, was a very prestigious Manhattan law firm, one of the top five law firms in New York. It became larger and grew internationally. As a consequence of the global downturn in 2008 – 2009 they had to sell the business to Morgan Lewis, which is in the list of top 20 American law firms. Morgan Lewis serves corporate America and its clients include large multi-national corporations like ExxonMobil, General Electric and others. Also, it has a very good franchise in labor law in the US. Some time ago they started moving beyond the US market. Now Morgan Lewis has offices in many countries, including Japan, China, Russia, Kazakhstan; its London office also doubled recently.
Richard: What do you think about the PwC and Morgan Lewis processes? Which one is closer to your interest?
Bakhytzhan: I like the PwC approach. I think when you have a product prepared by someone else, you already start from something- you can see the defects, the ways to make it better. I borrowed this PwC technique. Usually, I invite more junior colleague and we draft advice together so that we learn together.
Richard: What’s the main industry in your firm - is it oil and gas, mining, financial services or retail?
Bakhytzhan: As far as I can see, the legal market is limited and narrow, about 10 international firms, and basically they all do more or less the same work. Our main areas are: mergers and acquisitions, which is effectively purchase and sale of companies, finance deals, corporate work, oil and gas.
Richard: I assume, then, that your primary sector is Oil & Gas.
Bakhytzhan: I wouldn’t say that; I think when I came in 2007-2008 there was more oil and gas work. Now it is more diversified. We have large infrastructure projects that aren’t in oil and gas.
Richard: We are eager to understand your vision about the Almaty region within the overall Kazakhstan market. More and more companies are moved to Astana. What is your vision of the present situation?
Bakhytzhan: I think Astana will eventually grow; the National Bank and many large companies will move to Astana. But still, Almaty will be the primary city for services because it’s a million plus population and, historically, it has been the center of business.
We have a small office in Astana, just two people. I don’t think we need to have substantially more at this stage.
Richard: What is your perspective on the Kazakhstan global law firms’ global development?
Bakhytzhan: In Kazakhstan, recently we have had a lot of mergers of the law firms: Macleod Dixon, Dentons, Morgan Lewis and some others. There are two drivers for this, as I understand. First, the firms want to become larger, to serve larger businesses. Secondly, some firms are not financially stable, they want have a more stable partner; the combination may bring some value for growth. Here in Almaty I think there are about 10 law firms over the last 17 years; so there was no real growth in terms of number of law firms in the market. Some of the larger firms want to enter this market - let’s see how it goes! If they do, the competition will grow. For sure this global trend will benefit our clients!
Richard: Going back to your PwC time, what is your favorite memory from PwC?
Bakhytzhan: I have very good memories because of the fantastic people around me. It was a very strong team. I remember working with Yergazy Abdrakhmanov, Renat Akhmetov, Sergey Bezborodov, Ilyas Jumambaev, Courtney Fowler, Natalya Revenko, Omon Tursunov, yourself. For example, when I was sitting near Renat, I looked at how he was drafting reports, thinking about each word, each sentence. In the end, the advice was so good and balanced. I learned a lot from this. I think I became a professional at PwC, and now I’m just further developing my skills.
Richard: What is your guiding principle, how do you go through life?
Bakhytzhan: Just go… I think my principle is not to cheat, to be honest with people.
Richard: Do you have some quote that especially inspires you?
Bakhytzhan: One quote inspires me the most. “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step …”
Richard: Apparently, you are writing poems and one of your scripts was used for the “Classmates” movie series. What is your involvement into movies?
Bakhytzhan: Many people have hobbies. I do short stories, no more than two pages. I did this for some movies. When there are contests to participate online, I sometimes do. Unfortunately, I can’t be more active participant because of my work load. My involvement is limited- just writing. But still, this is a special aspect of my life.
Richard: It would be interesting to learn the main characteristics and qualities that contribute to your success, both in work and life…
Bakhytzhan: I must admit they are general: be professional, treat people with respect. I am considered to be calm, with no panic and stress. I think this is the image of a lawyer.
Richard: And what is your advice for row new joiners?
Bakhytzhan: Try to stick with PwC and to work there as long as possible, especially if you go there directly from University. It’s a good school, it teaches how to structure your work, how to develop yourself professionally. I think this is an ideal scenario…