WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM 14 Black Swan Event The international community has roundly condemned the unprovoked invasion and levied wide-ranging sanctions aimed at gutting the Russian economy and leaving the country unable to fund its war effort should this not serve as an adequate deterrent. In addition to government measures, significant pressure has been placed on international businesses to cut ties with Russia. Shell, Apple, Ford, FedEx and a host of other multinational companies have since announced their withdrawal from the country, often at significant cost. These responses have not been unanimous, however. Several major organisations have opted to continue their operations in Russia, whether in whole or in part, for the foreseeable future. Justifications offered have typically related to contractual obligations or moral duties to existing customers in Russia. Others have simply remained silent. The above is true for the legal sector as well. Law firms have been slower than most in announcing the actions they will take in response to the violence, with most official statements arriving weeks after hostilities were opened. Now, one month on from the beginning of the invasion, we have gained a more reliable picture of where law firms stand in relation to the ongoing conflict. Unified Condemnation More than 20 international law firms operated in Moscow prior to 24 February. As of April, it appears that few if any will continue to maintain a presence there. Linklaters became the first major UK firm to announce its departure from Russia on 4 March. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is reprehensible and it is right that we stand together in condemning it,” the firm stated. “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.” As of the time of writing, each of Linklaters’ fellow ‘Magic Circle’ firms has issued statements to a similar effect. By 10 March, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Freshfields had each announced their intent to withdraw. Other departures included Dentons, DLA Piper, Norton Rose Fulbright, Hogan Lovells and White & Case. To answer our titular question, it appears that every international firm in Russia is leaving, at least in a physical sense. The degree of firms’ scaling-down of operations, however, has not been universally consistent. Several have opted to close office locations but continue to work with Russian clients, sometimes including those that are sanctioned. For instance, while Latham & Watkins has elected to close its Moscow office alongside its peers, owing to “the violence in Ukraine and the needless human suffering taking place”, it has stopped short of ending its counsel of VTB Bank – Russia’s secondlargest financial institution and the subject of sanctions by the US and other governments. Several others have also opted to close physical locations but continue to work with Russian clients, some of which are currently under sanctions. These firms, however, appear to be in the minority, and generally eclipsed by highprofile leavers taking a more holistic stance. White & Case caused a stir with its swift move to drop its representation of state-affiliated Sberbank. Meanwhile, Baker McKenzie – the longest-surviving global law firm in Russia – has become a front-runner in the western legal community’s backlash against the Kremlin with its own measures. The firm declared an end to it 33-year tenure in the country and affirmed that it would not act for regime-associated clients “anywhere in the world.” Law firms have been slower than most in announcing the actions they will take in response to the violence, with most official statements arriving weeks after hostilities were opened.