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Increasing number of firms exiting Russia

Professional staff in companies based in Moscow continue to relocate following Russia’s attack on Ukraine. With bankers moving out of the capital, as mentioned in this column last week, lawyers are also on the move.

Global law firm Linklaters is relocating some of its Russia-based lawyers to London and Dubai, according to persons familiar with the matter. These cities were chosen because of their “swift and easy short-term solutions” for accommodation, visa and office options for the staff. However, they are not the only locations the staff are being located to.

The relocation effort follows a similar move by consulting giant McKinsey, which pulled its Russia-based staff out of the country and relocated them to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Rival Boston Consulting Group is also mulling sending staff to Azerbaijan.

Linklaters became the first major legal firm to confirm last month that it would leave Russia, closing down its Moscow office because of the Ukraine war. Other law firms – including Allen & Overy and Clifford Chase – have since followed suit as governments rolled out increasingly strict sanctions against Russia and pressure mounted on firms with Russian clients.

The Magic Circle firm, which operated through its Russia affiliate Linklaters CIS, had described itself on its website as “one of the largest and most successful international law firms in Russia”. In its statement last month, the firm said: “We will continue supporting our people there in the process, doing all we can to help them transfer to new roles within Linklaters or otherwise.

It added that it would “wind down existing work in accordance with our legal and professional obligations”, and said it would “continue to assist international clients in dealing with the implications of the current crisis and in unwinding their Russian business interests”.

Their statement last month said: “We will not act for individuals or entities that are controlled by, or under the influence of, the Russian state or connected with the current Russian regime, wherever they are in the world.” The world’s largest law firm, Dentons, also decided to split from its Russian offices. Their global chief executive, Elliott Portnoy, said: “This is a difficult decision that we have taken in full consultation with our colleagues in Russia in order to continue meeting our legal and ethical obligations.” He added: “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. 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.” The decision means Dentons’ Russian offices will act as an independent firm. It is one of the last major law firms to announce its exit, after DLA Piper confirmed earlier it was pulling out of the country. Denton had previously continued to market its Russia offices to clients. Earlier on March 14, its Russia M&A head appeared on a client webinar on sanctions alongside lawyers from across its global network.

“We look forward to a day when we will be able to reunite with our esteemed colleagues with whom we have successfully served clients from all over the world”, said Dentons chair Joe Andrew.

Managing partner of Dentons in Russia, Alexei Zakharko, said: “Our team will continue to operate as an independent law firm and we are committed to continue providing first-class support to our clients during these difficult times and beyond.” Dentons has more than 250 staff in Russia, built up over more than three decades in the country. Other law firms that announced they are leaving Russia in recent days include CMS, Hogan Lovells, White & Case and Debevoise & Plimpton.

Andy Jalil

The writer is our foreign correspondent based in the UK

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