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A firm believer in the saying ‘impossible is nothing’, Alexander Gorlov is doing very well in Moscow as the head of the legal department in Shtokman Development AG. Already thinking about enrolling his four-year-old daughter at Cardiff University in the future, he attributes his ability to do professional work in an international environment to his experience studying in Cardiff.
Student name: Alexander Gorlov
Year of graduation: 2003
Current employer: Shtokman Development AG
Why did you choose Cardiff University?
Cardiff came in 7th place for the research assessment exercise (RAE) and I thought I’d go to the best school in Wales.
We at Cardiff University pride ourselves for having over 100 countries of students that come here. What do you think about the range of international students here?
I learnt about other nationalities in Cardiff. I still have very good friends from Germany, Italy, England, Wales and China. I still keep in touch with the people I met in Cardiff.
We meet each other every five years or so. Not too often, but we still meet. I think Russians in comparison with other Europeans are less exposed to other nationalities.
There are so many different nationalities in Cardiff! When I work with different companies and the shareholders are from places like Norway or France, my experience in Cardiff helps me a lot.
Another thing is that before I went to Cardiff, I didn’t believe that I could work professionally in an international environment. But now because 80%-90% of my projects are based on English law, I don’t have any problems. I am now even more comfortable working under the English legal system compared to the Russian one.
You’re the head of the legal department in Shtokman – how are you settling in?
The oil and gas industry is new for me. I used to work for private companies in Russia and now I’m working for the state owned company – because the main shareholder is state owned. This is a very difference experience from working in private companies. I have a big legal department of 12 people. If things go according to plan, we will be expanding the office to about 16-18 people. The Shtokman project is one of the biggest in the world in the gas industry. Gas will be drilled from offshore Russia in the Arctic sea and be delivered to Europe and other parts of the world.
So tell me a little more about your legal responsibilities – what are you responsible for? What do you handle on a daily basis?
The most important task for the legal department is to finalise agreements between shareholders because they need to agree on certain terms in order to go further with the project. The other task is to help prepare the shareholders in making final investment decisions during the construction stage. So we are talking about 20-30 billion dollars in five years.
As I understand from oil and gas industries, risk liabilities are very high – what would you say is the biggest the risk of your job in particular?
My job is to identify the legal risks; to mitigate them; to explain to my management the details of the risks and to develop the risk mitigation strategies. Another is to get the most favourable terms for our contracts because we enter into big purchasing deals with many construction companies. I try to save as much money as possible for the company and shareholders. The biggest risk is not being able to do that.
What did you learn in Cardiff that you carry with you until today?
Firstly, that ‘impossible is nothing’.
The second thing l learnt was how to deal with an international environment which is very important for an international lawyer in the global world. I learnt to not only deal with people, but issues from other companies. Your horizon becomes limited when you stay in your country and not travel abroad.
Do you have any advice for a Russian prospective student who’s thinking of doing a degree here?
My advice (especially for Russians) would be not to focus so much on the ratings of universities (maybe it is not so important for Cardiff because it is well rated). It is understandable that employers only want to employ students from the top universities in Britain and assume that it would be better for them if their employees were from there.
But I would say that the top 20 law schools are relatively unknown yet have no significant difference in terms of education. There is absolutely no need to fight to enter the top schools. You should go ahead and get your master’s degree anyway. Just because one goes to the top university in the world doesn’t necessarily mean that they will get the best professional career. I have met many who went to Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard and haven’t done as well after graduation.
Yes I’d still say Cardiff was the best choice for me. If I turned back time to 2002, I’m still glad I chose Cardiff and not some other university because I am very happy with where my professional career is now.