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Four Firms Join Rivals in Abandoning Moscow Over Ukraine War (1)

March 10, 2022, 4:34 PMUpdated: March 10, 2022, 7:28 PM

Four Big Law firms — Winston & Strawn, Baker Botts, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner — said Thursday they’re closing their Moscow offices as Russia presses its invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Winston & Strawn is acting “out of a sense of solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” firm chairman Tom Fitzgerald said in a statement. Baker Botts said, “We see no alternative to winding down our operations” in Moscow.

U.K. firms Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance also announced on Thursday that they would be closing their operations in Moscow.

Firms have been accelerating their exits, as the latest Russia closure announcements follow the five Big Law operations that said Wednesday they would close offices there.

The law firms are joining corporations such as McDonald’s Corp. in pulling out of the country. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and auto manufacturer Stellantis NV are among the most recent announcements from the business sector.

Chicago-founded Winston, which opened its Moscow office in 2005, believes that closing the operation is “simply the right thing to do,” Fitzgerald said in the statement. “Winston continues to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting loss of life, destruction, and needless suffering.”

Shortly after the assault by military forces began roughly two weeks ago, the U.S., E.U. and U.K. imposed strict sanctions that had law firms questioning their ties with Russia clients and their presence in the country.

Earlier this month, Winston said it would withdraw from representation of Russian state-owned entities and any clients the firm “reasonably believes” to have known ties to Russia’s war efforts.

Baker Botts said in its statement Thursday that it would be ending its relationships with state-affiliated entities in Russia.

“While this is the right choice for us as a firm, we recognize the impact this will have on our valued colleagues in Russia, with whom we have been privileged to practice for many years,” the statement said.

The firms that announced closings on Wednesday include Latham & Watkins, Squire Patton Boggs, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

(Updated with information about Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Baker Botts throughout)

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; John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com