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Changing course and finding balance
Moscow associate Evgeny Chernyavsky shares his story

As a law student Evgeny Chernyavsky set his sights on becoming an intellectual property (IP) lawyer and joined a large firm as an associate in its IP practice. But after a year, he realized that his real passion was in another area. 

"I was involved in litigating and enforcing IP rights, which was extremely interesting. But I realized that it was also highly specialized. Working in a commercial law firm opened my eyes to the work of transactional, corporate law and I decided to change." 

Evgeny then joined White & Case, where he is now a senior associate in the M&A practice. Does he regret starting out on a different path? "Definitely not. It was a really useful and valuable experience, both in terms of the skills that I learned and my understanding of this important area of law." 

He adds that, "As a trainee or a junior associate, it's hard to know what area of law is the best fit until you start talking to other lawyers or partners, or getting first-hand exposure to the work. Many lawyers will change course in the early years of their career."

“I think of a transaction as a living thing”

So what does an M&A lawyer do? Evgeny gives an example: "Say a company wants to buy another company. We support them with every stage of the transaction, starting with the due diligence, then structuring and preparing the documents, negotiating with the other parties and finally closing the deal." Managing clients' expectations and dealing with other parties is a big part of the job too. "As you build on your experience, you learn to anticipate obstacles and avoid them, and how to negotiate effectively."

The work can be intense and demanding. "I think of a transaction as a living thing. At certain points in the transaction, there are deadlines that have to be met or the deal would collapse. That means that we have to get the work done even if that occasionally means working long hours." 

Time management: The secret to a work/life balance

Balance is the key. "One thing that lawyers learn quickly is time management. If I think about how much I can accomplish in a day now compared to when I was a student, there's a big difference." Evgeny says that teamwork is also essential. "There's no way that you can get the job done alone. I rely on my team to support me, and I support them. When one of us is doing well, we're all doing well."

Being part of a global firm means that colleagues and clients are based around the world, and Evgeny points out the importance of understanding intercultural dynamics. "We might be communicating and coordinating with teams across Asia-Pacific and Europe. It's important to know when–and how–to push and when to hold off. For example, a "hard deadline" in one country might not mean the same thing in another culture."

The importance of continuous learning

For Evgeny, the learning never stops. "There's always something new to learn. On the one hand, this could be knowledge of the law or a technical skill. We're making headway with our actions on diversity here in Moscow, so that's another area in which we can all learn and grow. And finally, I always learn a lot simply by observing our partners and those with years of experience. Practicing law means staying on top of change–clients' needs, legislation and skills. There's always room for improvement and self-development."