The Law Society of England and Wales has come out in support of law firms acting on behalf of Russian oligarchs, as City of London law firms face pressure to cut ties with Russia, amid claims they are working on behalf of Vladimir Putin’s allies to block the UK government’s sanctions regime.
The comments come after UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told the Sunday Times the Foreign Office had received threats from law firms over plans to sanction Russian oligarchs.
“We’ve already had letters to the Foreign Office, from lawyers, threatening us,” Truss said in an interview with the Sunday Times.
In response to the Liz Truss’ comments, the Law Society said it supports those solicitors challenging the government’s sanctions regime.
In a statement, Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce 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.”
“If Parliament wishes to change those rules, they have the power to do so democratically. The Law Society and our profession stand ready to support the government to build a watertight sanctions regime against Russia.”
The comments come after Labour MP Ben Bradshaw called on the government to “name and shame” those law firms that are lobbying the government on behalf of Russian clients.
Today, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister suggested law firms may also face sanctions themselves, as he told law firms to “think very carefully” about propping up the Putin regime.
Following Liz Truss’ comments, London law firm Norton Rose Fulbright banned its lawyers from commenting on sanctions externally.
A company spokesperson said: “Our sanctions team is advising clients across the world and, given the rapidly evolving situation, it is important that this advice is provided directly, through the appropriate channels.”
The law firm, which has offices in Moscow and an extensive list of Russian clients, did not say whether it was planning to cut ties with Russian clients, but instead said all of its relationship are constantly under review.
“We have appropriate risk management policies in place across our global business and keep all relationships the firm has under review,” the Norton Rose Fulbright spokesperson said.
Today, Magic Circle Law firm Linklaters and Chicago headquartered law firm Baker McKenzie said they would be reviewing their links to Russia.
In an email to City A.M. a Baker McKenzie spokesperson said the law firm is currently “reviewing” it ties to Russia, as part of a process which will see it sever ties with certain Russian clients.
A spokesperson for Magic Circle law firm Linklaters also said the firm would be reviewing all of its “Russia-related work.”
Magic Circle law firms Freshfields and Allen & Overy both refused to comment.