European law offices open doors to Ukraine's displaced law students

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The skyline with the banking district is photographed in Frankfurt, Germany, September 22, 2021. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

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  • 32 students get law firm internships in Europe through initiative
  • Firms fund travel, accommodations, stipend and social support

(Reuters) - A group of international law firms and academics is working to get Ukrainian law students out of the country and into legal internships across Europe, organizers of the effort said as Russia's invasion of Ukraine passed the one-month mark.

So far organizers say 32 Ukrainian law students in Stockholm, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Warsaw have secured internships, travel arrangements, and accommodation through the initiative.

Another 200 have registered with the program, Safe Harbors for UA Students, for help leaving Ukraine or other countries to which they have fled and to find work, organizers said.

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Because law is an undergraduate degree in Ukraine, many of the students are in their late teens or early 20s. And because men aged 18 to 60 must remain in Ukraine in case they are pressed into military service, the students are all women.

Allen & Overy’s Frankfurt office is hosting a 19-year-old law student from Kiev and is working on securing a work permit for her, said partner Anna Masser. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; White & Case; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom are among the other firms participating in Frankfurt.

“For the time being, it’s set up to last for three months,” Masser said. “Whether they stay beyond three months, we’ll see.”

The program grew out of the international law and arbitration community and is limited to students who can speak and write in English and who are involved in international moot court activities.

Sixteen law firms with arbitration practices in Frankfurt have committed to collectively hosting eight students, and five have already arrived in the city, said Lisa Reiser, a senior associate in Baker McKenzie’s office there.

Altogether about 50 law firms and legal groups have offered to help in some way, according to Stockholm University law professor Patricia Shaughnessy, who came up with the idea for the initiative.

Shaughnessy volunteers with an annual international arbitration competition in Vienna that draws 500 teams from about 90 countries. Her connections helped her find law firms willing to take part in the Ukraine program, she said.

She said she and fellow organizers spend a lot of time reassuring parents on the phone that the program is legitimate.

“These are fairly young girls, and most are traveling alone,” Shaughnessy said. “Some have never left the country before or been on an airplane.”

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr has committed to flying several Ukrainian law students to next month’s weeklong Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna, with the expectation that many will continue on to law firm internships in Europe. Some could end up at Wilmer, which already has four Ukrainian interns it brought on prior to the invasion, said London-based partner Steven Finizio.

“There’s no roadmap,” Finizio said of his firm’s efforts to help Ukrainian law students. “Giving them some hope for the future and some normalcy feels like the right thing to do.”

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at