Sergiy Gryshko excels on the international stage when it comes to dealing with contentious matters, both domestically and internationally.
Sergiy Gryshko is Queritius Kyiv office head. Sergiy holds an LL.M. degree from Queen Mary University of London. He has nearly 20 years of experience representing clients at all litigation, arbitration, and enforcement stages. Sergiy handles cases under various institutional and ad hoc arbitration rules. He is a listed arbitrator of ICAC at the UCCI. Sergiy is included by the European Commission in the List of Persons Suitable for Appointment as Chairman of Arbitration Tribunals.
What motivated you to pursue a career as a litigator?
Since my early childhood I have had a strong desire for fairness and despised injustice in all cases, which would often surprise my peers and elders alike. Sometimes it was not in my best interest. For instance, I once accidentally smashed a window of an empty classroom at my secondary school with a snowball when playing with my mates in a schoolyard after classes. As it was quite late there were very few people at the school, there was no CCTV, so I, in my early teens, could have run away and nobody would report me. To the astonishment of my fellow students, I came back to school and confessed to the offence then helped the teacher of manual labour to replace the glass. I think the idea that fairness matters has naturally steered myself towards choosing the vocation of a lawyer first and then to specialising in dispute resolution.
What skills are needed to successfully collaborate with lawyers, experts and authorities in different jurisdictions?
In my experience, it is the ability and desire to be a team player that matters most. When you collaborate with different law firms and experts it is important to ensure everyone sees the big aim that we are collectively trying to accomplish at all times. For normally, any cross-border project involves a sequence of different actions by multiple people. Dealing with authorities is a slightly different matter; with them it is patience which matters most.
What do you find most challenging about your role as an official member of the Ukrainian Government Negotiating Team, and what do you find most rewarding?
I have taken part in a number of negotiations and the most challenging part was, normally, to make sure that different agencies were cooperative. The most rewarding part was seeing the negotiators actually get their act together as it would invariably lead to success in negotiations.
How has your work changed since the start of the Russian invasion?
At first, all work was ground to a halt and I found myself procuring helmets, bullet-proof vests, and other protective gear for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, delivering hot meals to hospitals in a besieged Kyiv and writing letters to my friends in Europe and Britain to provide weapons to Ukraine. As the Battle of Kyiv was decisively won by Ukraine and the courts resumed their work in Kyiv, the work gradually picked up, but it was similar to working under the strictest of the covid-19 lockdowns as the offices would still be closed for the fear of missile strikes. Thankfully, the broadband and mobile communication were functioning impeccably. Then the power outages caused by massive missile strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure rolled in, which left most people in darkness for six to eight hours a day. The worst blackouts lasted over 48 hours. That coincided with some arbitration hearings and filing deadlines. I recall being cut off in the middle of a virtual hearing when the power (and broadband!) went out. Thankfully, I had finished my opening statement by that time and was able to reconnect quickly just as a colleague was presenting our argument.
You have been nominated for the list of lawyers who can resolve trade disputes between the EU and Ukraine. How do you anticipate recent advancements in EU-Ukrainian relations will impact your work?
Ukraine obtained EU candidate status in June 2022 and, as far as I can tell, it has given a huge impetus to implementing the EU acquis into Ukrainian legislation. A side effect of this may be much more open-minded and less protectionist economic policies by the Ukrainian Government which, in their turn, will tend to cause fewer trade disputes between Ukraine and the EU.
How has Queritius adapted to address the challenges caused by the invasion?
We have decided to abandon physical offices and work entirely online to mitigate the peril of missile strikes to our people for as long as the warfare goes on.
What are the main challenges facing litigators when it comes to enforcement of judgments in Ukraine today?
The principal wartime challenge of enforcing judgments, whether Ukrainian or foreign, which all litigators face is that it takes courts rather long to entertain any enforcement-related appeals. And such appeals are normally made by debtors who actively resist enforcement to delay it. The main reason for protracted appeal proceedings is that new judicial appointments which were supposed to resume in 2022 after almost three years of hiatus have not taken place due to the Russian aggression leaving the courts understaffed.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in commercial litigation practice?
Learn the Supreme Court case law and critique thereof to make sure you understand why a particular dispute was decided in this particular manner and whether their Honours were right to decide it that particular way. Master the art of explaining complicated matters, both legal and factual, in plain and concise language. Work on your drafting and oral presentation skills every single day!