​Baker McKenzie Will Finally Spin Off Russian Operations

Baker McKenzie, the third largest law firm in the world by number of lawyers, has had a lot to announce lately. On July 12, the firm said it had raised its newly-qualified salaries from £105,000 to £110,000, which went into effect in the beginning of the month.

Shortly after, Baker McKenzie confirmed that it would finally be spinning off its Russian operations, nearly five months after Russia invaded Ukraine. The firm’s offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg will “launch as an independent law firm by October.”

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Baker McKenzie, which previously had 260 staff—including 130 lawyers—in Russia, has been in the country for 33 years. However, the unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine and the ensuing atrocities seem to have outweighed this long history: “We will not act for any individuals or entities that are controlled by, or directly linked to, the Russian state and/or current regime, anywhere in the world,” the firm said.

Baker McKenzie’s Russian operations will no longer be a member firm of Baker McKenzie, but “the intention is for the newly independent firm to be Baker McKenzie’s preferred law firm in Russia,” a spokesperson for the firm said. “Baker McKenzie is working with the team in Russia to ensure a smooth transition for our clients and our people.”

Many major firms have already spun off (or will spin off shortly) their Russian practices. For instance, in April, Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance, which has been in Russia since 1991, said that most of its Moscow team would start working for a “new independent law firm” called Bortkevicha & Partners, which would be led by former Moscow managing partner Vika Bortkevicha.

Also in April, Eversheds Sutherland said its Russian lawyers will transition to Birch Legal, a newly-created firm that will now be its “preferred relationship firm in Russia.” When some expressed doubt that Eversheds had truly left the country, the firm insisted it has “ceased operating in Russia” and said the new firm is not part of Eversheds “and nor do we have any financial interest in Birch Legal.”

Last month, Hogan Lovells—the tenth largest firm in the world by both revenue and number of lawyers—ended its Moscow operation and announced the creation of a new firm called LEVEL Legal Services. This firm is led by three of its former Moscow senior lawyers.