White & Case donates $1 million to Ukraine aid
More international law firms are piling out of Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. White & Case, Hogan Lovells and DLA Piper are some of the latest to announce the closure of their Moscow offices, with the former also pledging $1 million (£766k) in donations to Ukraine’s aid.
White & Case said in a statement it is “horrified” by the events in Ukraine and that it is in the process of winding down its Russia operations after having a presence in the capital for over 30 years.
“Our review of Russian and Belarusian client activity is ongoing, and goes beyond our requirements to comply with sanctions,” the firm continued in the statement. “We are ceasing all representations of Russian and Belarusian state and state-owned entities in accordance with our professional responsibilities, and not accepting any new mandates from Russian and Belarusian state and state-owned entities.”
The firm has made a donation of $1 million to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society and is matching donations made by lawyers and staff to qualifying relief organisations. The firm said its lawyers are also providing pro bono services to support Ukrainian refugees, which include a legal aid hotline, employment advice, visa application assistance and legal guidance to non-profit organisations.
Hogan Lovells, meanwhile, will be “progressing with an orderly wind down of our operations in Moscow”.
The firm said it is continuing to support a number of charitable organisations and that its lawyers are providing humanitarian aid to refugees through donations, housing, pro bono legal advice and translation services.
DLA Piper is leaving Moscow as well as St Petersburg, saying that “a presence in Russia is not aligned with our values and therefore no longer viable”.
However, Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, intends to keep its Russia bases open.
“At present, our offices in Russia remain open, where we are focused on our people, who bear no responsibility for the actions taken by their government, and our clients, who need advice regarding their business affairs in Russia, including how to wind down those operations,” a firm spokesperson said. “We continue to comply with our legal and professional obligations, including with regards to international sanctions.”
“Further, we are committed not to undertake any new work for Russian state-owned entities, government officials, or others closely connected with the Russian government.”
The spokesperson said the firm is committed to supporting Ukraine and its people through charitable, pro bono, and other efforts.
Fellow international firm Baker McKenzie is also maintaining its presence in the country but is keeping it “under constant review”.
“Irrespective of sanctions, we will not act for any individuals or entities that are controlled by, or directly linked to, the Russian state and/or current regime, whether that work is in Russia or elsewhere in the world,” the firm said in a statement, adding: “We will not accept any new mandates that fall into this broad category, and subject to our legal and professional obligations, we will wind down any such existing work.”
Since this story went live both Dentons and Bakers have confirmed they are to separate from their offices in Russia, which will operate as independent law firms. Both firms have bases in Moscow and St Petersburg, where they employ more than 250 employees.
Elliott Portnoy, global CEO of Dentons, said:
“This is a difficult decision which we have taken in full consultation with our colleagues in Russia in order to continue meeting our legal and ethical obligations. We have enjoyed more than 30 years of collaboration and friendship with our colleagues in Russia who bear no responsibility for this crisis nor for the circumstances that have led to this decision.”
Portney added: “Our hope is that at a future time we will be able to come back together when it is lawfully and practically possible to do so.”
Bakers, which has operated in the country for over 30 years, said in a statement:
“We have made this difficult decision following ongoing consultation with our multinational clients, whose urgent on-the-ground legal needs we are serving, as well as careful consideration of the wellbeing of our many people in the wider region.”