Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, three BigLaw firms – Baker McKenzie, Dentons, and CMS – closed their offices in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. Representatives from these firms have stated that these offices will remain closed until further notice and that the health and safety of their employees is currently paramount.
Baker McKenzie had approximately 100 employees in its Kyiv offices, while CMS had 67 and Dentons had 49, according to Reuters. The three firms claim that they are doing everything in their power to safely relocate their employees in neighboring countries. Dentons’ employees will begin to work remotely once settled in safer regions, according to a spokesperson. Baker McKenzie will continue to try to serve clients despite the chaos, the firm said.
In the years prior to the invasion, both Baker McKenzie and Dentons’ Ukrainian employees were busy working on notable deals in the region. In 2016, Baker McKenzie’s 50-plus attorneys, including nine partners, advised Cargill Inc. on the construction of a $100 million port in Yuzhne, a city along the country’s southern border, according to Bloomberg Law. Last year, lawyers in Dentons’ Kyiv office advised Dionis Biogas Energy LLC on the implementation of the first biomethane project in Ukraine, an “important milestone” for the bioenergy ecosystem in the country, according to Dentons’ website.
The evacuation of these firms’ employees has posed some hurdles. The firms have had to secure visas, cash, medication, and other needs for its fleeing employees. Luckily, though, there has been no physical friction between Russian soldiers and these firms’ employees as they have fled.
As the situation in Ukraine unfolds, these firms may also have to reassess their relationships with their employees in their Russian offices, due to U.S. sanctions. Both Baker McKenzie and Dentons have more than 130 lawyers in Moscow and St. Petersburg. With major law firms like DLA Piper closing its operations in Russia, others may soon follow suit.