Magic circle firms A&O and Freshfields latest to review Russia client links

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By Aishah Hussain on


City response continues

Moscow, Russia

Magic circle firms Allen & Overy and Freshfields are the latest to take action in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A&O said in a statement on Wednesday that it was reviewing its “Russia-related portfolio” and will “refuse” new instructions and stop all Russia-linked work that “goes against our values”.

“We will, naturally, vigorously implement all political decisions and comply with applicable sanctions and rules,” the statement said.

The firm added it was seeking pro bono opportunities and has donated to the Red Cross to help the charity’s work on the ground supporting Ukrainians.

Freshfields, meanwhile, has “terminated, suspended or declined” various client arrangements.

“The firm has acted swiftly and responsibly with regard to ongoing mandates and new mandate requests to comply with our legal, regulatory and professional obligations and with a close eye to our values and reputation as a firm, irrespective of the potential business impact that will flow from this,” the firm said in a statement.

“We are subject to stringent client confidentiality obligations, so we cannot provide further details about specific clients or mandates,” the statement continued. “At this time we are focused on the wellbeing of our colleagues in Moscow and ensuring they have adequate support.”

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Elsewhere, international firms Osborne Clarke and Pinsent Masons today announced their official position in response to ongoing events in the Ukraine.

Osborne Clarke said it will not represent individuals or organisations that are subject to sanctions or take on new clients owned by Russian or Belarusian individuals, corporations or governments for the time being.

“We are evaluating all matters where we are already engaged that are linked to Russia and Belarus,” the firm said in a statement. “We will continue to support existing clients that are seeking to exit the Russian market, where it feels right to do so.”

The firm added it was working with a number of national and international humanitarian organisations to offer support through volunteering and charitable donations.

Pinsent Masons said its mandates involving Russian entities is “minimal” but it was reviewing these to determine whether it should continue to act.

Linklaters, Ashurst, Baker McKenzie and White & Case have all moved to reassess their Russian client relations and operations this week. Kennedys confirmed plans to close its Moscow office.

City law firms have come heightened scrutiny following the sanctions imposed on Russia in recent days.

At the prime minister’s questions yesterday Boris Johnson warned lawyers and law firms involved in “assisting corrupt Oligarchs” that they will “pay a price” if they undermine the interests of the UK and “advance the interests of Putin’s war machine”.

The PM’s comments follow foreign secretary Liz Truss’ revelation that she had received legal letters by firms representing Russia’s super-rich seeking to avoid sanctions.

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