Law firm Dentons completes formal Russia exit but keeps business ties

Signage is seen outside of the law firm Dentons in Washington, D.C., U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - Global law firm Dentons said it will complete the process of spinning off its Russian offices into a separate, independent law firm on Jan. 1.

Dentons said Thursday that the new firm, Nextons, will be its preferred law firm in Russia. The firms will work together "on matters for international clients, where permitted to do so by sanctions and Dentons policies," Dentons said.

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, joining a wide swath of other businesses that have also left the Russian market. Several law firms also said they would end their work with Russian clients.

Nextons will be led by Alexei Zakharko, Dentons' former Russia managing partner. Zakharko, in a statement released by Dentons, said he and his team are "proud" they have kept their practice, "and have managed an orderly separation process that will enable us to continue to meet the needs of our clients."

Dentons said in March it had 200 employees in its offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The firm hopes to formally rejoin its Russian colleagues "when it is lawfully, ethically and practically possible to do so," a spokesperson said.

In June, CMS, a UK-founded firm operating in more than 40 countries, separated from its Moscow office, which is now operating as an independent law firm known as SEAMLESS Legal.

In October, global law firm Baker McKenzie said its offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg had spun off to become a new, independent firm called Melling, Voitishkin & Partners. Like Dentons with Nextons, Baker McKenzie said Melling will be its preferred law firm in Russia.

DLA Piper, another global law firm with U.S. roots and thousands of lawyers worldwide, said in March it will close its offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg and "transfer the Russian business to our team there." A firm spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for an update on the firm's progress.

(NOTE: This story has been updated with a tweak to the headline.)

Read more:

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Factbox- Global law firms in Russia react to Ukraine invasion

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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.