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Five Big Law Firms Close Moscow Offices as Ukraine War Rages (3)

March 9, 2022, 5:34 PMUpdated: March 9, 2022, 10:07 PM

Five Big Law firms—Latham & Watkins, Squire Patton Boggs, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld—are shuttering operations in Russia, joining rivals in exiting the country after the invasion of Ukraine.

“It is no longer tenable for us to continue our operations in Russia and we have therefore decided to wind down our Moscow office,” Squire Patton Boggs said in a statement.

Latham will immediately begin an orderly transition to wind down its operations in Moscow, chair and managing partner Rich Trobman said in a statement. Freshfields, which dropped Russian Bank VTB following the invasion, said in a statement it would also be closing in Moscow.

Law firms have been contemplating whether to continue to work with state-owned clients in Russia following the strict sanctions imposed by the U.S., E.U. and U.K. McDonald’s Corp., Coca-Cola Co. and Paypal Holdings Inc. are among corporations that have been halting activities in Russia.

Akin Gump said in a statement that it would be suspending its operations in Moscow pending further developments.

“As a firm built by Robert Strauss, the last U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union and the first U.S. 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,” the firm said.

Morgan Lewis

Morgan Lewis said in a statement it was winding down its operations in Moscow. The firm also said that it would remain in full compliance with government sanctions and “have terminated or declined client engagements inconsistent with the letter or spirit of those sanctions.”

Squire Patton Boggs said its closure will effectively conclude the firm’s relationship with a number of clients. All other existing work or new matters will “continue to remain in full compliance with all applicable laws and sanctions that are in place,” it said.

Freshfields said in its statement, “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. 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,” the firm continued, “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.”

The decisions follow similar announcements by other law firms.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton said on Tuesday it would be exiting its engagements with Russian governmental and state-owned entities and will temporarily close its office in Moscow. Debevoise & Plimpton said it was terminating several Russian client relationships and would not take on any new clients in Moscow.

Hogan Lovells is continuing to operate its Moscow office, according to a statement from the firm. It is, however, “terminating some ongoing matters or declining new mandates where we believe they go against our values or that they are not aligned to our support for all the innocent people caught up in the invasion of Ukraine.”

A spokesperson for Dechert said the firm is reviewing its presence in the city. Nearly 20 U.S. law firms have had operations in Russia.

Podcast: War in Ukraine and Life-or-Death Choices for Big Law

(Adds Hogan Lovells, Dechert in 13th and 14th paragraphs.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Meghan Tribe in New York at mtribe@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com