International law firms Dentons and CMS have shuttered their offices in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv after Russia launched a military invasion of the country. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Dentons shuttered the Kyiv office "until further notice" and created a task force to monitor and manage the situation, according to a statement on Thursday by the firm.
"Our primary concern remains the safety of our people in both Ukraine and Russia," according to the statement. "We are in regular contact with our team in Kyiv and are providing our colleagues with any assistance they need, including relocation assistance in the neighboring countries."
Once its attorneys and staff are safely relocated, they will continue to work to serve firm clients, according to Dentons.
CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP also shuttered its office in Kyiv on Thursday, following weeks of monitoring as tensions escalated and providing options to its attorneys and staff there, including relocation to elsewhere within the European Union, according to a firm statement.
"We have a dedicated team that has been working to assist colleagues in Kyiv for some time, particularly as issues started to emerge, and we continue to explore arrangements in what is a fast moving situation," according to CMS.
Baker McKenzie also opted to close its Kyiv office, looking to support its attorneys and staff in Ukraine while assuring clients that they will continue to receive legal assistance through its network of offices throughout Europe, according to a firm statement on Thursday.
"We are closely monitoring developments at all times and are doing everything possible to support our people during these challenging circumstances," according to Baker McKenzie. "Their safety and wellbeing is our number one priority and our thoughts are with them and everyone affected at this extremely difficult time."
As the conflict escalated, Ropes & Gray announced Thursday that it is willing to provide pro bono legal assistance to individuals and families caught in the Ukraine conflict.
"Our firm has a long history of having provided pro bono legal representation to thousands of refugees and asylum seekers over many decades," Jenny Rikoski, partner and co-chair of Ropes & Gray's pro bono committee, said in a statement Thursday. "We are ready to provide humanitarian immigration support to individuals affected by the crisis."
International law firms that are committed to the Russian market will stay in Moscow or other major cities and adapt, as they did after Russia defaulted on its debt in the late 1990s and invaded Crimea in 2014, said Noah Rubins, who heads Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP's international arbitration group and its global Russia dispute resolution practice group in its Paris office.
"It's very hard to predict where this will go from here," Rubins said. "But no doubt there will be great demand for sophisticated advice on the new sanctions and also on commercial disputes that arise out of the unstable economic situation."
Those firms that choose to remain will need to muddle through a series of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the European Union, including the freezing of Russian assets in the EU, the lack of access by Russian banks to European financial markets, and American investors barred from acquiring Russian government bonds.
Financial markets in Moscow plunged Thursday, with the RTS dropping more than 40%. In the U.S., the S&P 500 also started Thursday sharply lower and oil prices were above $100 a barrel.
O'Melveny & Myers LLP is advising its clients to ensure that their defenses can withstand any potential cyberattacks initiated by Russia, as the weapon has been used in the past by the country during crises, John Dermody, a member of the firm's data security and privacy group, said in a statement Wednesday.
Companies should be currently assessing the decisions they might need to make should they find themselves the target of a cyberattack, he said.
"Past incidents demonstrate that Russia, whether by itself or acting through proxies, may target the private sector to exert pressure in the middle of an international standoff," Dermody said. "Relying solely on prevention is untenable. If they haven't already, companies should be assessing now how their operations could be impacted."
--Editing by Alyssa Miller.
Update: This article has been updated to note that Baker McKenzie has also closed its Kyiv office.
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