Mannheimer Swartling withdraws Swedish lawyers from Moscow office and plots 'orderly exit'

Operations in Russia suspended 'with immediate effect' as firm concedes international trade has not ensured peace
Panorama of winter Moscow. Сapital of Russia. Kremlin, Kremlin wall, churches, Grand Kremlin Palace. Moscow river under the ice.

FOTOGRIN; Shutterstock

Leading Swedish law firm Mannheimer Swartling has ceased its work with Russian clients and relocated all of its Swedish lawyers based in Moscow ahead of plans to exit the Russian legal market in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

A statement issued by Mannheimer yesterday said the firm has ‘suspended’ its operations in Russia ‘with immediate effect’ while it analyses whether it can exit the Russian market ‘in an orderly manner’ with respect to its Scandinavian clients and Russian employees. 

The Stockholm-based firm also said it has stopped accepting any work on behalf of Russian clients in any of its offices, a move that mirrors the actions taken by a growing number of law firms this week as they face pressure to respond to the invasion. 

All of the Swedish members of Mannheimer’s 21-strong Moscow office have been relocated, while it plans to ensure its Russian lawyers ‘receive the assistance they need’. 

‘We will always be optimistic that justice and international trade are better served by an international presence, than by isolation, but the past week has tragically shown us that the integration of economies and the mutual ties created by trade have not worked to ensure peace,’ the statement reads. 

The firm said it was supporting the UNHCR with financial donations to provide humanitarian aid to those displaced by the conflict, adding that it would ‘continue to find ways to help Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and the Ukrainian legal community as long as needed’. 

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

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Other law firms to make public statements regarding their work with Russian clients includes noted Dutch firm Houthoff, which said this morning it had decided to ‘terminate its relationship with the Russian Federation as well as with associated persons and companies’ as a result of the invasion, adding that it ‘will not accept any new instructions from such parties.’

UK firm Allen & Overy yesterday pledged to refuse new Russian-related instructions and stop all Russia-linked work that goes against its values, while Ashurst said it is not currently acting for new or existing Russian clients, regardless of whether they are subject to sanctions. Hogan Lovells, Slaughter and May, White & Case, Linklaters and Baker McKenzie have confirmed they are reviewing their Russian client rosters.

Norton Rose Fulbright's global chief executive Gerard Pecht also published a statement on LinkedIn yesterday expressing the firm's 'unequivocal' opposition to the invasion in order to draw a line under controversy surrounding an internal memo telling lawyers not to comment on Russian sanctions. 

And top 30 UK law firm Kennedys revealed two days ago it was in the process of closing its Moscow office, with the insurance specialist’s global senior partner, Nick Thomas, saying the firm had been quietly winding down its small Moscow arm since last year as it was "uncomfortable with the direction the country was taking".   

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