Moscow exit continues: top firms announce plans to leave Russia
International legal community increases response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the heels of a string of announcements
The withdrawal of six multi-national law firms from Russia has been announced today, including global giants Latham & Watkins and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
In addition to Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Squire Patton Boggs, Eversheds Sutherland and Gowling WLG, which announced similar plans on Monday and last Friday, Norton Rose Fulbright and Linklaters are also winding down their operations in Russia.
On the other hand, Akin Gump has temporarily suspended operations.
Despite increasing public and political pressure on the international business community to isolate Putin's regime, today's announcements continue the rapid escalation of the international legal response to the invasion.
Around 90 lawyers and support staff are based at Freshfields in Moscow, making it one of the most large international law firms in Moscow.
A statement from the company stated, 'We have not taken this decision lightly. It is a fact that our presence in Moscow has lasted 30 years and we are very knowledgeable about the impact of this news on our valued colleagues in Russia. However, in light of the government of Russia's actions in Ukraine and the clear stance we have taken with respect to our work with Russia, we think that this is the right course of action.
Since the invasion was not discussed publicly until now, Latham & Watkins had faced criticism. Rich Trobman, chair and managing partner, said, "The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine is devastating to watch. We, along with many across the globe, condemn the violence that is taking place and the needless suffering inflicted upon the innocent people there.
He continued: "We will begin an orderly transition to wind down operations in Moscow in accordance with our ethical obligations to our clients. As we wind down operations in Moscow, our first priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues in Russia."
At its site, Latham lists 24 lawyers in Moscow, among them office managing partner Mikhail Turetsky. He joined the firm in 2011 from Baker McKenzie.
A similar number of lawyers based in Moscow has been affected at Morgan Lewis, which lists 21 lawyers, whereas Squire has 16 lawyers in Moscow.
Today, Eversheds Sutherland became the first law firm to announce it would withdraw from the marketplace. This global law firm has 40 lawyers located in Moscow and St Petersburg. Our Moscow office has over 30 lawyers and patent attorneys working for Gowling WLG.
The Russian operations of Akin Gump have also been suspended today as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has done so too.
In a statement, the law firm said: "As a law firm founded by Robert Strauss, the last American ambassador to the former Soviet Union, and the first to the Russian Federation, we are truly saddened and shocked by the tragic and senseless loss of life in Ukraine."
Our business operations in Moscow have been suspended while we await further developments as a result of the current crisis. In order to ensure the safety and well-being of the long-standing colleagues and meet our obligations to clients' safety and well-being in Moscow, we will do so orderly.
According to an update by White & Case concerning their response to the crisis, they remain among the few firms still operating in Moscow.
Our Moscow office is actively assessing the impact on our Moscow staff, prioritizing their safety and wellbeing. We will not accept new instructions from Russian and Belarusian state-owned entities," a spokesperson said.
Additionally, it provides pro bono assistance and donates relief efforts like many other firms. As far as its employees are concerned, the company has made a US$1 million donation to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society and is matching employees' donations to qualifying relief organizations.