Allen & Overy pledges to refuse new Russia-related instructions

UK Magic Circle firm condemns ‘unlawful invasion’ and also says it will ‘stop work that goes against our values’
Ukrainian policewomen work with refugees leaving the country through the Ukrainian-Slovak border

Ukrainian policewomen work with refugees leaving the country through the Ukrainian-Slovak border Yanosh Nemesh; Shutterstock

UK Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy has pledged to refuse new Russia-related instructions and stop all Russia-linked work that goes against its values.

In a lengthy statement posted on LinkedIn, the firm also promises to ‘support governments around the world in their response to this senseless invasion’. 

In so doing, it joins a small but growing number of top firms which have spoken out publicly against Russia’s actions – and goes further than many in both the strength of is condemnation and its promise to go beyond sanctions compliance when deciding what work to undertake. 

‘We are reviewing our Russia-related portfolio,’ the statement reads, ‘and as a result we 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.’

A&O’s statement is one of the most forthright yet made by a leading practice as firms come under pressure to speak out publicly against the invasion.

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More coverage of the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on the legal profession

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Earlier this week UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson said law firms should “think very carefully” about advising state-controlled companies with ties to the Kremlin. Those comments followed the Foreign Office’s revelation that it had received legal letters by firms representing oligarchs and companies seeking to avoid sanctions.

‘A&O prides itself on its values and we are committed to doing all we can to support those friends, colleagues and their families, and clients who are affected, wherever they are in the world,’ A&O’s statement said, adding that it was ‘actively seeking pro bono opportunities and has donated to the Red Cross, which is working on the ground to support Ukrainians in extremely difficult circumstances’.

Other firms to have issued statements on the invasion today, to the effect that they are reviewing their client roster to comply with sanctions, include Hogan Lovells and Slaughter and May while it has emerged that Ashurst is currenlty not acting for new or existing Russian clients, regardless of whether they are subject to sanctions.

Yesterday, Norton Rose Fulbright’s leadership team published a LinkedIn statement in which they expressed their ‘unequivocal’ opposition to the invasion. This followed controversy surrounding an internal memo telling lawyers not to comment on Russian sanctions, although the firm said this only ever applied to sanctions advice and not general comments about the invasion.

Top 30 UK law firm Kennedys, meanwhile, said it was in the process of closing its Moscow office having taken the decision last year as it was “uncomfortable with the direction the country was taking”, according to global senior partner Nick Thomas.

 

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