Russia’s war in Ukraine has been widely condemned by the international community. The EU, US and UK, among others, have imposed a range of sanctions on the Russian government as well as companies and individuals connected to it. The sanctions make it legally and morally difficult for Western entities to continue to do business in Russia or deal with certain organisations and individuals from Russia.
Western legal community shuns Russia
Many legal practitioners and law firms in the West have also condemned the war. In the IP community, the UKIPO, USPTO, EUIPO and EPO have suspended their cooperation activities with the Russia IP Office and Eurasian Patent Organisation.
Western law firms with offices in Russia have made statements about the war and their presence in Russia. According to various reports and press releases, some law firms have said they will suspend or close their operations in the country, while others have said they would not work for sanctioned entities or individuals or take on new Russian clients.
Managing IP recognised 10 international law firms (listed below) in the 2021 edition of IP STARS for their IP work in Russia. As of today, March 15, all these law firms have confirmed their exit from the Russian legal market. Firms like CMS and Dentons also announced that their local offices will now run as independent law firms.
Law firms closing their Russian operations
The war has also affected international law firms in Ukraine, with law firms such as Baker McKenzie and CMS temporarily closing their offices in the country. It remains to be seen whether these firms will eventually decide to permanently close their offices in Ukraine.
New local firms emerge
On October 13, 2022, Baker McKenzie announced that its Russian teams (Moscow and St Petersburg offices) have launched a new law firm called Melling Voitishkin & Partners, which will be its "preferred law firm in Russia".
Managing IP's Asia reporter Sukanya Sarkar spoke to contacts at some of the new independent law firms. One source said: “We don’t know if any of the clients that have left the market will return. Everything depends on how the current political situation unfolds.” Another added: “We certainly expect [an international law firm] will come to us on a priority basis for any Russia-related requests, and the same goes the other way around – we will most likely engage them for any work abroad.” Read the article here.
Time will tell whether these global legal brands will return to Russia when relations with the West normalise. Until then, we believe these firms will still cooperate, albeit very carefully because of the sanctions, with the independent law firms set up by their former colleagues in Russia.
We are deeply saddened to see the destruction of lives and property in Ukraine and the displacement of millions of its people. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine, including its IP community.
Managing IP has decided to suspend its research and publication of research content for Russia and Ukraine until further notice. We pray for peace and a swift end to the war.
*This article was first published on March 11, 2022. We will amend it as soon as we receive further relevant updates about the above-named law firms.