3 BigLaw firms close their Kyiv offices; firms in US ready for pro bono refugee work
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Baker McKenzie, Dentons and CMS have closed their offices in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv until further notice, spokespeople said Thursday.
Firm spokespeople on Thursday told Reuters, Bloomberg Law, Law.com and Law360 about the decisions to close amid Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine. Some law firms also paid their employees early to avoid banking issues, Law.com reports.
“Things are not easy, infrastructure is at risk and some communications are down,” a leader of a local law firm who didn’t want to be identified told Law.com. “We hear sirens, we hear jets overhead. But we are made of strong stuff, and we continue our business as we can and where we can.”
Baker McKenzie and CMS representatives told Reuters that all their Ukraine-based employees are accounted for, while a Dentons spokesperson said the firm is in regular contact with employees who will be working remotely after they are “safely relocated.”
Baker McKenzie has about 100 employees in Ukraine, CMS has 67 and Dentons has 49, according to Reuters. Bloomberg Law reports that Baker McKenzie and Dentons have more employees in Russia than in Ukraine.
“Our primary concern remains the safety of our people in both Ukraine and Russia,” Dentons said in its statement.
Dentons said it is providing its employees in Ukraine with any needed assistance, including “relocation assistance” to neighboring countries. CMS also said it provided its employees relocation options.
“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,” CMS told Law360 in a statement.
Baker McKenzie said it was “closely monitoring developments” and “doing everything possible to support our people during these challenging circumstances.”
Serhiy Chorny, a managing partner of Baker McKenzie’s Kyiv office, told Reuters that its backup systems will protect data.
“We have well-tested, top-of-the-market security procedures for client data and other sensitive data, including storage and backup on servers outside of Ukraine,” Chorny said.
Accounting firms KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers told Bloomberg Law that they have employees in Ukraine offices, and their safety is a top priority.
Some large law firms in the United States, meanwhile, began to prepare to offer pro bono assistance to Ukraine refugees.
Jenny Rikoski, partner and co-chair of the pro bono committee at Ropes & Gray, told Law.com that the law firm is collecting a network of volunteers who can help. The firm wants to be able to “move quickly to help on these cases,” Rikoski said.
Other firms preparing for pro bono work were Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Law firms can help Ukrainians in the United States apply for asylum; can help people who haven’t gone through a traditional visa process to enter the United States through a Humanitarian Parole program; and can partner with groups, such as the International Refugee Assistance Project, Rikoski told Law.com.