04 March 2022

How are law firms aiding Ukraine

As the Russian-Ukrainian conflict progresses, so does the the use of force and all that it entails at the humanitarian and geopolitical levels. The rest of the international community has felt obliged to respond, handicap of a globalized world, with multiple coercive measures. Europe and the West are almost entirely on the side of the Ukrainians, but (consequently) under severe threats from the Kremlin; intervening militarily in the border territory is not a viable option, nor is making Ukraine a participant in organizations such as the EU or NATO, at least in the short run.

Therefore, in order to condemn this illegal invasion, the preferred solution has been to carry out a severe economic crackdown on Russia. Sanctions have been seen in many areas, such as commerce, diplomacy, finance, culture, sports, etc. And it seems to be an effective counterattack, since the country is experiencing a sharp drop in the value of its currency, together with a strong impact on its stock market and complications for the management of exports with Europe and the US. However, it is worth mentioning on the other hand, that these measures have also had not so desirable turnout in the social framework... let's say that it does not seem so fair that the Russian people pay so dearly for the bad decisions of their leader.

Now we will see specifically the reaction from some law firms, how they have sought aid for Ukrainian refugees or, instead, have chosen to cut ties with Russian clients to curb their capacity of influence on a global scale.

 First, we have the notable case of Norton Rose Fulbright's (NRF's). On the basis that leading law firms have typically (rather, historically) chosen not to take a position on public issues or at least to do so in a less pronounced way, moreover, there was a previous memo in The Lawyer for personnel at NRF’s not make their own judgments about the Russian sanctions.

Nevertheless, the NRF's team has finally chosen to publicly and unequivocally speak out and oppose the Russian invasion, through a statement on LinkedIn, encouraging other firms to do the same, even adding that "We continue to be deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic events that have occurred in Ukraine and we support all efforts to end this war."

Furthermore, the firm NRF's has acknowledged that they are making the appropriate adjustments to comply with all the sanctions and new laws, even if they have to suspend some of their relationships with clients, finally, taking into account their additional concern of having an office in Moscow.

Paul Weiss firm has also condemned the invasion of Russian forces and have positioned themselves in favor of Ukraine, increasing its pro bono services and providing donations to various NGOs such as the International Rescue Committee, the Ukrainian Red Cross, the Relief of Crisis of the UN and the Hope Project.

Paul Weiss also encourages their staff and attorneys to donate independently, noting that they will match donations up to $1,500.

President Brad Karp has recalled the great effort that Paul Weiss's lawyers already showed to protect the Jews of Europe during World War II, by changing US policy towards immigration and arranging for thousands of European Jews to secure a refuge insurance in the United States.

And now they are partnering with immigration legal experts to help meet this need for legal assistance, including screening people for any special immigration relief that is available.

Greenberg Traurig, has also shown solidarity with Ukraine, according to the words of its executive president Richard Rosenbaum "As we have watched the incredibly courageous fight being waged by the Ukrainian people in the streets of their cities, to protect their homes, their children, and their freedom, we also see this as a defining moment for liberty, democracy, and justice around the world. As lawyers, it is not only our right, but our duty to speak out and to do more." 

The firm has made a $1 million donation through its charity fund and encouraged staff to make personal donations that they will also match up to another million dollars. Last but not least, they will work consistently from their Warsaw office to provide significant coordinated pro bono services and humanitarian aid, both individual attorneys and staff as a unified firm around the world.

Crowell & Moring has also expressed a desire to help the Ukrainians, although they acknowledge that they have not yet seen great demand for pro bonos, they expect it to increase in the coming days. Several of their attorneys have already expressed interest in offering pro bono services similar to the work they did for Afghan refugees last year when the United States withdrew its troops. Very similar has been the action of the firm Ropes & Gray.

The most common measure, carried out by large firms such as Baker McKenzie, Sidley Austin, or Venable, has been to cut ties with Russian clients in accordance with the sanctions.

Finally, it should be noted that the US firm Covington & Burling has been chosen by Ukraine to bring charges against Russia at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, defending that the accusation of genocide against the Russian population residing in the Ukrainian territory of Donbas is false, and calling for an end to the armed attacks, which have already claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians, including minors. In the past, this firm has already represented Ukraine in the same court and achieved victory, also against Russia for violations by the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism ("ICSFT") and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination ("CERD").

Copyright © The Impact Lawyers. All rights reserved. This information or any part of it may not be copied or disseminated in any way or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of The Impact Lawyers. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of The Impact Lawyers.

Would you like to read more?

The Impact Lawyers offers a FREE newsletter that keeps you up to date on news and analysis about the international latest legal news.
Please complete the form below and click on subscribe to receive The Impact Lawyers Newsletter subscription


The Impact Lawyers Newsletter

  • Practical templates and guides for lawyers and law firms
  • Podcasts, videos and webinars explaining how to be sucessful
  • Tips made by lawyers and other practitioners