‘Magic circle’ law firm Linklaters to exit Russia amid Ukraine crisis

Elite ‘magic circle’ law firm Linklaters is pulling out of Russia, marking the first leading international law firm to close its Moscow office amid the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

Linklaters, which is among the most high-profile advisers to state-owned Russian companies including now-sanctioned Sberbank, said on Friday that it would “wind down our operations in Russia and close our Moscow office”.

The firm has more than 70 lawyers based in Russia and said it would help relocate staff “to new roles within Linklaters or otherwise”. It said it would also “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.”

Law firms have been key advisers to Russian state-owned groups and have come under intense pressure in recent days from MPs and their own staff to halt work for Kremlin-linked companies and individuals and review their operations in Russia.

Linklaters, which launched in Moscow office in 1992, describes itself as “one of the largest and most successful international law firms in Russia”. It was a frequent adviser to banks on a rush of London flotations of Russian companies in the early 2000s, and has advised state-owned groups such as energy giant Gazprom, which is also subject to sanctions.

The firm’s decision to exit Russia caps a week in which many large law firms pledged to review Moscow offices and client lists.

International law firm CMS on Friday said it had put its Moscow office “under critical review”. In a statement CMS said it would stop accepting new instructions from Russian-based entities or from any individuals with a connection to Moscow, wherever they are based.

The firm said it was “undertaking a review of current work, to ensure that the firm remains compliant with international sanctions and its principles and values. The future of the Moscow office is also under critical review.”

Other firms including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, White & Case, and Baker McKenzie said they were reviewing Russian clients.

Allen & Overy said it was reviewing all of its Russian work and would “refuse new instructions and stop all Russia-linked work that goes against our values” as well as complying with sanctions.

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