Global firm Dentons has decided to leave Russia and ‘separate from its offices in Moscow and St Petersburg’, which will operate as an independent law firm.
On Friday, the firm said that ‘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’.
However, Dentons – which previously said it has ‘the largest presence of any other global law firm in both Russia and Ukraine’ – today announced that it is ‘to begin to exit Russia’.
‘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,’ Dentons’ global CEO Elliott Portnoy said.
‘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 firm’s global chairman Joe Andrew added: ‘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.’
Fellow international firm Baker McKenzie, which has offices in the Russian capital and St Petersburg, said on Friday that it is 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, adding that it will also ‘wind down any such existing work’.
Dentons’ departure leaves Baker McKenzie as one of the biggest law firms remaining in Russia, after international firm DLA Piper also announced its plans to leave the country earlier today.
‘In light of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the resulting humanitarian crisis, and our consequent decision not to act for clients connected to the Russian state, we have concluded that maintaining a presence in Russia is not aligned with our values and therefore no longer viable,’ the international firm said.
‘Accordingly, after 17 years in the country, we are withdrawing from our operations and will no longer have DLA Piper offices in Moscow and St Petersburg. Our intention is to transfer the Russian business to our team there.’
The decision by DLA Piper – one of the biggest firms in the world in terms of revenue – follows similar moves by five leading firms on Friday, to cap a week in which more than a dozen firms left Russia.
International firm Hogan Lovells said on Friday night that it ‘can no longer continue to operate in Russia and we will be progressing with an orderly wind down of our operations in Moscow’.
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang similarly said that ‘it is no longer appropriate to have a CMS office in Russia’, adding: ‘As such, we as CMS will be withdrawing from the Russian market. We will be making an orderly transition of the business to the current Moscow team.
‘We believe that at this time this decision is in the best interests of our clients who will thus continue to receive local support and of our staff who are experiencing disruption to their lives.’
White & Case said it had decided to wind down its Moscow office ‘after careful consideration’, adding: ‘Our review of Russian and Belarusian client activity is ongoing, and goes beyond our requirements to comply with sanctions.
‘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.’
Debevoise & Plimpton, which opened its Moscow office in 1997, said that ‘current circumstances have led us to conclude it is no longer tenable for us to operate in Russia’, while Dechert also announced it was closing its office in the Russian capital.
Magic circle firms Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer all said they would leave the Russian capital last week, after Linklaters announced it was closing its Moscow office the previous Friday. Slaughter and May did not have an office in the country.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Eversheds Sutherland, Gowling WLG, Herbert Smith Freehills and Norton Rose Fulbright have also announced their plans to depart Russia, as have US-based firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Baker Botts, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Latham & Watkins, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Squire Patton Boggs and Winston & Strawn.
Separately, US firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom – which is moving its Moscow-based lawyers out of the country to ensure their safety – has stopped providing legal advice to recently-sanctioned Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich and the club.
Skadden – whose former European managing partner Bruce Buck is Chelsea’s chairman – ceased providing legal advice to Abramovich and Chelsea before sanctions were imposed last week, the Gazette understands.
Meanwhile, City firm Harbottle & Lewis – one of the firms named by Conservative MP Bob Seely in parliament earlier this month – said it ‘does not and will not act for any sanctioned individuals or entities and nor will it act for any members of the Putin regime or for any person or organisation known to be associated with it’.
‘We have never engaged with the government in relation to any sanctions being imposed on any individual or entity,’ Harbottle added.
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