From Russia with Love: Networking Your Competitive Advantage

1st July 2019

International Advisory Partner, Chris Walklett, reflects on the business opportunities on offer around the world, having been invited to link up with an international network of lawyers who can help companies to expand their markets.

I have just returned from five eye-opening days in Moscow, with lessons for business, and a call to action for entrepreneurs with ambition.

Invited to speak at the world conference for a legal network, I left with no little trepidation, yet fascinated to have an insight into another network.

The trepidation obvious – many of us had never been to Russia before, a vast country with a rich and complex history, and a diverse range of cultures.


The fascination, well that was fuelled by the fact that Bishop Fleming are active members of their own network, for accountants and business advisors – Kreston International.

And I had the opportunity to get the inside track on a network for lawyers – Advoc, an ‘international network of independent law firms.’

What would I find? Similarities or a different world?

The invitation for me to attend was born of the vision of Ashfords LLP, a progressive law firm with offices in London, and the south west and a leading member of Advoc. 

Ashfords were keen to see how adding an accountant into the mix might bring a different dimension, and that vision was a signpost to the dynamic worldwide team I was about to join in Moscow.

Within hours of arriving in Moscow it became apparent that our assumptions and prejudices were wide of the mark.  Mixing with the Muscovites in a number of settings showed that the city has friendly warm people with the same hopes, fears and ambitions as those that we harbour in the UK, in fact anywhere – and walking around the city you could have been in any vibrant city anywhere in the world – but feeling a lot safer there than, say, London.

There were striking parallels with the dynamics presenting in the delegates (drawn from member firms around the world) at the conference.

Advoc boasts over 5,000 lawyers in over 70 countries and has been shortlisted for the Global Network of the year at the 2019 European Lawyer awards. 

Advoc Joint World Conference

Delegates came together in Moscow for the Advoc Joint World Conference, working hard to explore how they can work together for the benefit of clients looking to embrace international opportunity.  The ambition, enthusiasm, collaboration, cohesiveness and energy were obvious – in fact it could have (dare I say it) just as easily been an accountant’s international conference such as Kreston International, in terms of those dynamics.

International help for businesses

It made me reflect on the widespread and accessible help available to businesses and entrepreneurs – from both our networks – who are looking to address cross border and international challenges.

It is a sad fact that less than half of UK businesses have a business plan.  Only 1 in 5 businesses export and only a small minority have plans to do so in the next 5 years.

Many of those businesses will happily cite the uncertainty that Brexit represents – but are absent a cohesive business plan, and not grasping the nettle of international opportunities. 

For those that can open their eyes to international opportunity, and the competitive advantage it can bring, then networks like Advoc are standing by to help, and represent a credible and nimble alternative to the massive (and no doubt expensive) branded worldwide networks.

Muscovites have ambitions and qualities we would all recognise.  Likewise, networks like Kreston and Advoc

And whilst those networks must continue to raise their profile, entrepreneurs also need to reach out and take advantage of the business partners available all over the world.

Its where international competitive advantage can be found.  Whether it is Russia or one of over 70 countries, there is much love for business, waiting to be accessed.

From Russia with love? I certainly have a Moscow shaped hole in my heart.

Chris Walklett – Partner, International Advisory, Bishop Fleming LLP


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