Law: Insider who can do business with Moscow: Sharon Wallach meets Ksenya Solovyova, a Russian whose specialist knowledge is helping smooth the way for East-West commercial deals

COMMERCIAL law is almost a new concept in a Russia waking up to the idea of private business activity, says Ksenya Solovyova, who since April has worked in the City office of Lovell White Durrant. Christopher Smith, the head of the firm's East-West trade group and of its Prague office, says that through her knowledge of the Russian system, Ms Solovyova 'provides an important bridge between the business cultures of Eastern and Western Europe. There are immense opportunities in areas such as hi-tech, aerospace and mineral resources, but local know-how is all-important.'

Ms Solovyova's role includes advising Westerners on how to negotiate with East Europeans, and explaining the concept of privatisation to Russians preparing to take over their own businesses. After perestroika, she joined a Paris-based US law firm, working as its Russian adviser in Moscow, her home city. Before that she had worked for 12 years at a government think- tank, researching economic development.

She had something of a privileged upbringing. Her father was a prominent citizen, who established a series of design institutions throughout the Soviet Union. Her mother was a film actress until her marriage.

Ms Solovyova's main impression so far of Britain is that people here are very calm. 'They are not as nervous as people in Moscow. Maybe it is that they are more reserved or have a more philosophical approach.'

But comparisons between English and Russian law firms are impossible. 'When I graduated as a lawyer, I went into research. There were no law firms then as you know them. Those who worked for clients settled very primitive issues, dividing the property of divorcing people or doing criminal work. There was practically no business law.'

Mr Smith says: 'Russia never had the chance to develop a true commercial structure. My firm has acted for Soviet government departments and trade organisations for many years, but inward investment and joint ventures are recent things. We had no real experience, so we took on Ksenya.'

Her decision to leave Moscow was prompted by concern for her children's safety. 'Since perestroika, kidnapping has become a way of life. Children should be free to move and to communicate. They feel safe now.'

They enjoy their English school. 'Russian schools are very different: old-fashioned and traditional,' Ms Solovyova says. 'There, teachers believe the purpose of school is to educate. Here the purpose seems to be to make children happy.'

She will not admit that the concept of 'culture shock' can apply to a move from Moscow to London. But after working alone, being in a large firm is 'very different', she says. 'You have to walk down a long passage just to get to the ladies' room.'

She is also amused to find herself following local custom by sending a memo to someone two floors down.

She comments on the quality of office equipment, computers and so on, compared with what is found in Moscow. Mr Smith chips in to say that she also loves 'shiny pencils', in common with people throughout Eastern Europe.

Ms Solovyova defends herself: 'Because my father is a designer, I grew up with the notion that you should feel comfortable with everything round you. We spend so much time in the office, it is important to have lovely things around.'

She readily admits to missing Moscow. 'I am very unfortunate in a way. For the rest of my life I will miss Moscow when I am here, and miss what I have here when I am in Moscow.'

Her husband, a film actor, has remained in Moscow, but her parents have joined her and her children in England. The family has set up home in Welwyn Garden City - an unusual choice perhaps, but the venue was partly dictated by immigration requirements that force them to live within 25 miles of the capital. 'We Russians are obviously still considered dangerous,' she says.

She believes that her job here is useful. 'Russia is in general a sophisticated and intelligent nation - but this also means there are many ways of cheating people and the Western client runs many risks. For instance, if he is negotiating with a Russian company, he may be unaware that it has no right to dispose of assets that belong to the government. The companies that are investing over there are often very large and thinking years ahead, so these matters are important.

'There are so many different decrees it sometimes seems that Russian government departments work only to keep lawyers in business. Russia is very rich, but it is like a minefield, and you need someone who knows where the mines are to lead you through.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Representative

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To promote and sell the Company...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Civil Engineering

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Business: This company is going thro...

Tradewind Recruitment: KS1 & KS2 Teachers Required

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind Recruitment are currently working...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea