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British law firms look at Russian relationships
Law Society of England and Wales President I Stephanie Boyce

02 Mar 2022 / global news Print

British law firms look at Russian client relationships

Leading British law firms are considering dropping Russian clients, according to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales, as the war in Ukraine intensifies, and the spotlight falls on the legal profession’s links to the country.

The Gazette says that it is aware of at least three City firms which have initiated reviews of client relationships in the light of the ongoing conflict.

It adds that a number of British firms have offices in Moscow and other Russian cities. While there is no suggestion that they have done anything wrong, pressure is mounting for professional-services outfits to cut all ties with the country.

Sanctions rules

The Law Society of England and Wales has, however, supported firms representing Russian clients – in particular those working to ensure sanctions imposed by the British government are lawful.

Society president I Stephanie Boyce (pictured) said: “It’s the job of solicitors to represent their clients, whoever they may be, so that the courts act fairly. This is how the public can be confident they live in a country that respects the rule of law – unlike Putin’s tyrannical regime.

“Solicitors are highly regulated and are not allowed to bring spurious objections to processes – if they challenge the government’s actions, it’s because they think the government is at risk of breaking its own rules,” she added.

Boyce added that if the government wished to change the rules on sanctions, this should be done democratically.

‘Pariah state’

Law firms have been criticised by British foreign secretary Liz Truss, in a briefing to MPs, for seeking to hold up the sanctions process.

She said that the government had to make sure these measures were “legally watertight”.

It was also reported earlier this week that prime minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said that Russia should be treated “like a pariah state”, and that City law firms, accountants and banks should not be supporting allies of the Russian regime.

However, Labour MP Justin Madders told Truss: “No matter how distasteful we might find it, and how damaging it might be to those law firms’ reputations, even oligarchs are entitled to legal representation, because that is part of what makes us a free and democratic society.”

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland