09 Mar 2022

Moscow exodus continues: Latham, Freshfields and four other top firms announce plans to quit Russia

String of announcements sees international legal community step up response to Russian invasion of Ukraine

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Six leading international law firms have announced plans to pull out of Russia today, including global giants Latham & Watkins and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Squire Patton Boggs, Eversheds Sutherland and Gowling WLG are also winding down their Russia operations, joining Norton Rose Fulbright and Linklaters, which announced similar plans on Monday and last Friday respectively,

Akin Gump, meanwhile, has suspended operations ‘pending further developments’.

Today’s announcements continue the rapid escalation in the international legal profession’s response to the invasion amid mounting public and political pressure on the international business community to isolate Putin’s regime.

Freshfields has one of the largest teams in Moscow of any international firm, with around 90 lawyers and support staff based there. 

‘This is not a decision we have taken lightly,’ it said in a statement. ‘We have been present in Moscow for 30 years and we are very conscious of the impact this news will have on our valued colleagues in Russia. However, in light of the Russian government’s actions in Ukraine, and the clear stance we have taken on Russia-related work, we believe that this is the right course of action.’

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

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Latham & Watkins had faced criticism for not commenting publicly on the invasion until now. In a statement, chair and managing partner Rich Trobman said: “The unfolding humanitarian crisis is devastating to watch and we stand with so many in the world in condemning the violence in Ukraine and the needless human suffering taking place.”

He added: “The firm will immediately begin an orderly transition, consistent with our ethical duties to our clients, to wind down operations in Moscow. During this process our focus will be principally on the safety and well-being of our colleagues in Russia.”

Latham lists 24 Moscow-based lawyers on its website, including office managing partner Mikhail Turetsky, who joined the firm from Baker McKenzie in 2011.

A similar number of locally based lawyers are affected at Morgan Lewis, which lists 21 lawyers in Moscow, while Squire has 16 lawyers on the ground there.

Eversheds Sutherland, meanwhile, was the first firm to announce its withdrawal plans today. It has 40 lawyers spread across bases in Moscow and St Petersburg. Gowling WLG has a team of 30 lawyers and patent attorneys in its Moscow office.

Also today, Akin Gump joined Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in suspending its Russia operations.

The firm said in a statement: ‘As a firm built by Robert Strauss, the last US ambassador to the Soviet Union and the first US ambassador to the Russian Federation, Akin Gump is deeply saddened and shocked by the events in Ukraine and the tragic and senseless loss of life of so many innocent Ukrainians. 

‘In light of the ongoing crisis, we are suspending operations in Moscow pending further developments. We will do so in an orderly way, as the safety and well-being of our long-time colleagues and ethical obligations to clients in Moscow remain a high priority.' 

In a further update on its response to the crisis, White & Case confirmed it remains among those firms continuing to operate in Moscow.

"We are not accepting new instructions from Russian and Belarusian state and state-owned entities,” a spokesperson said. “We are also actively assessing the impact on our Moscow office, prioritising the wellbeing and safety of our people there.”

Like many firms it is also making donations to relief efforts and providing pro bono help. It is understood to have made a $1m donation to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society and is matching donations made by employees to qualifying relief organisations. 

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