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More law firms exit Russia as Dentons and Bakers keep offices open

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White & Case donates $1 million to Ukraine aid

Moscow, Russia

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”.

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Elsewhere, Debevoise & Plimpton and Dechert have confirmed the closure of their Moscow offices. Both US law firms have operated out of the Russia capital for over two decades.

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.”

A number of major law firms have shuttered in Moscow in recent weeks, including all five magic circle firms. Check out the various firms’ responses here.


Update

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.”

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26 Comments

SC Trainee

I cannot remember the last time I heard a positive story about Dentons. Genuinely the least sexy big law firm in London.

(88)(6)

Incoming Vac Schemer

As someone who has an upcoming vacation scheme with Dentons, could anyone actually shed some light on the quality of work and the type of people who work at this firm? I’m not sure I’ll get the full picture from the virtual scheme

(15)(1)

Associate

I would say quality of work is excellent in specialist areas. We are ranked highly in a number of areas and in those areas the people are excellent. There are some associates who are incompetent and can be frustrating to work with. As a trainee, you are given as much responsibility as you can handle (along with usual admin type work). If there is a trainee in my team I think is good, I will try to give them the best experience I can.

As people, everyone is generally nice to work with and I haven’t come across anyone that was particularly difficult since joining. Management transparency and decisions can sometimes be baffling.

(17)(11)

Harsh but true

Doubtless, they have some real talent given their rankings. However, from personal experience, they dish out TCs to a lot of very average candidates. I studied the LPC with a few current associates – they are good at building their brand/marketing the firm, but most are technically disappointing when it comes to actually doing the job.

(34)(0)

QC

Who?

(0)(16)

Harsh but true

Dentons – that was in reply to the post above.

(7)(0)

QC

No, who are the associates. Do read the question dear.

(2)(41)

Dentons Trainee

Please provide names / departments

(7)(37)

Harsh but true

On a public forum? Great idea. Case in point.

(77)(4)

Dentons Trainee

Names or didn’t happen

(2)(24)

Harsh but true

As below – LC mods won’t approve a list of names and in any event, it would be cruel to name and shame.

Dentons Trainee

Lame excuses. You must be lying.

Joe

Departments then – where can you expect the best / worst lawyers in the firm?

(1)(7)

Harsh but true

I know of some pretty incompetent fee earners in banking and tech-related subgroups. I don’t know about the firm as a whole. Bear in mind that every firm has incompetent lawyers. My point was just that Dentons has a lot of them – perhaps they slip through the cracks due to the large turnover of associates and big trainee intakes – who knows.

Future Trainee Solicitor

Yet another example of W&C being an outstanding firm. Millions in support will be well and justly received in Ukraine.

Other major law firms should match and donate.

(10)(36)

Realist

The $1m donation, albeit welcome well-received, is hardly outstanding form after +30 years of raking in Russian money. If anything, the size of the donation reveals how much revenue was actually generated over there. W&C is no different to any of its peers.

(49)(5)

Future Trainee Solicitor

I don’t see any other firms, who have also profited from Russian work, donating to assist the humanitarian effort in Ukraine.

With respect, perspective is required here and something is clearly better than nothing. W&C is setting a good example by offering more than ceasing Russia based activity.

(12)(30)

:/

My firm donated a similar amount. They just didn’t crow about to get positive press.

(12)(3)

Anon

Which firm? 😒

Exx

Fbd also donated and keeps donating.

(2)(0)

Vote with their feet

If UK businesses who are clients of Dentons and Baker McKenzie do not drop these firms like a shot then all their social responsibility statements on their websites are meaningless.

(15)(3)

Wake up mate

Yeah because that’s literally how business works? What do you think happens once the world goes back to “normal” or everyone just gets used to business as usual because Russia pulls a Crimea?

You mustn’t be a commercial solicitor.

(3)(2)

Harsh but true

Be more specific next time. You’re deluded if you expect a list of names to make it through LC’s content moderation. It would also be cruel to publish a list.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

You don’t need to say their names to name them. If you refer to the guy who wears scruffy reebok trainers and frequently brings in Tesco ready meals for lunch I’m going to know who you’re talking about.

(1)(7)

Harsh but true

Harsh, not cruel – ain’t calling anyone out. The incompetent ones were top bantz so don’t deserve it.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

This corporate virtue signalling is disgusting. They earned millions upon millions whilst working in Russia…

(8)(2)

Comments are closed.

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