Factbox: Global law firms in Russia react to Ukraine invasion

People walk in the Moscow International Business Centre
People walk at the Moscow International Business Centre, also known as "Moskva-City", in Moscow, Russia February 9, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

March 17 - More than 20 international law firms were operating in Moscow before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, setting off waves of Western sanctions.

By mid-March, few if any planned to remain. Major law firms gradually said they would close or spin off their Russian offices, joining a wide swath of companies in other industries that have left the Russian market. Several law firms also said they are ending their work with Russian clients.


Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a Dallas-founded firm, said March 16 it is "in the process of closing its Moscow office," and that a team of its lawyers would be relocated to other offices.

Baker McKenzie, Dentons and DLA Piper, three global law firms with U.S. roots and thousands of lawyers worldwide, and CMS, a UK-founded firm operating in 45 countries, said they are withdrawing from the Russian market by spinning off their offices there into standalone firms.

Debevoise & Plimpton, Hogan Lovells and White & Case, said March 11 that they would close their Moscow offices. White & Case, a New York-founded firm, said it was reviewing its work for Russian and Belarusian clients "beyond our requirements to comply with sanctions." Debevoise, another New York firm, said it would not take on any new clients in Moscow and has terminated some client relationships.

Allen & Overy; Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner; Clifford Chance; Baker Botts; Herbert Smith Freehills; and Winston & Strawn all said March 10 that they will shut down their Russian offices.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Eversheds Sutherland; Latham & Watkins; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; and Squire Patton Boggs said March 9 that they will be closing their offices in Moscow.

Canadian-UK firm Gowling WLG said in a statement that it is leaving Russia and will stop working with Russian clients "sanctioned or not."

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in a March 8 internal memo reviewed by Reuters said its Moscow attorneys will relocate outside of Russia "to ensure their safety in the face of increasing anti-American sentiment within Russia." The firm said it was closing its Moscow office and was in the process of ending its representation of a sanctioned Russian client.

Norton Rose Fulbright said it will close its 15-lawyer Moscow office "as quickly as we can, in compliance with our professional obligations." The firm, whose website says it has over 3,700 lawyers and legal staffers worldwide, said it was reviewing its relationships with clients connected to the Russian government.

London-founded Linklaters on March 4 said it was closing its Moscow office, where its website said it had more than 70 attorneys. The firm said it will decline to represent any entities under the influence or control of President Vladimir Putin's regime.


New York-founded Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton said it is temporarily shutting down operations in Moscow, "pending further developments." It is also ending its representation of Russian government and state-owned entities and complying with sanctions, the firm said.

Swedish law firm Mannheimer Swartling said it has suspended all Russian operations and was analyzing whether it can leave the market.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with details on additional firms.)

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.

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Jacqueline Thomsen, based in Washington, D.C., covers legal news related to policy, the courts and the legal profession. Follow her on Twitter at @jacq_thomsen and email her at jacqueline.thomsen@thomsonreuters.com.