Law firm Norton Rose Fulbright to exit Russia over Ukraine invasion

A general view shows residential buildings in front of the Moscow International Business Center, also known as "Moskva-City", in Moscow, Russia, May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
  • Norton Rose Fulbright to shut Moscow office as soon as possible
  • UK firm Linklaters already announced plans to leave Russia

(Reuters) - Norton Rose Fulbright is ending its operations in Russia, becoming the largest law firm so far to exit the country since Russian forces invaded Ukraine and triggered waves of international sanctions.

The 4,000-lawyer firm said in a statement early Monday that it is closing its Moscow office "as quickly as we can, in compliance with our professional obligations,” calling the wellbeing of its staff in the region a “priority.”

Norton Rose says it is reviewing terminating its relationship with clients connected to the current Russian regime. The firm said that when lawyers can't end relationships with those Russian clients, it will donate profits from that work to “appropriate humanitarian and charitable causes.”

About 20 international law firms have offices in Russia. Norton Rose has over 50 lawyers and other employees in Moscow, according to Monday’s statement. The global firm has worked for several entities sanctioned over the Russian invasion, including Sberbank, Gazprom and VTB Capital. It also lists Russian oil giant Rosneft as a client.

The London-founded firm Linklaters on Friday said it will also leave Russia and will decline to represent any entities under the influence of the country’s current regime.

Two other major law firms with a Russia presence, CMS and Baker Botts, have said they are reviewing their future in the country. Swedish firm Mannheimer Swartling last week suspended its Russian operations and is determining whether it can leave the market.

Many global law firms with Moscow offices have said they are ending client relationships in response to the Western sanctions against Russia, which have led to economic fallout as international corporations suspend or terminate their business in the country.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

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.