Law Firms and Russian Profits

Since Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, hundreds of the world’s leading companies (from investment banks to consumer goods) have shuttered their Russian operations and undone decades of investments in a matter of days. These firms are incurring large costs and taking real risks to avoid aiding the Russian war effort.

Law firms have been slower to respond.

Firms have finally closed their Russian offices, but this is a modest and possibly misleading first step.  When McDonald’s shuts its doors in Moscow, it does not mail burgers from London. By contrast, law firms can and do serve Russian interests from afar; if nothing else, COVID has taught us the possibilities of remote work. The point is not where service professionals work, but whether they’re helping to strengthen the Russian economy.

Some law firms are splitting hairs about which clients they will avoid. Some firms say they will no longer represent clients with “known ties to Russia’s war effort” or that “don’t share our values,” leaving plenty of room for serving the interests of Putin’s supporters.

Many other firms – particularly those without Russian offices – have not yet spoken about the topic. Some firms may have no Russian clients, but many work on matters that benefit or finance Russian corporate investments.

We believe democracy-loving firms will do more. Therefore, faculty and research staff from Harvard, Stanford and Yale Law Schools will track the AmLaw 100 firms and — with significant help from students from Cambridge Law Society — the UK100 firms to see which have publicly committed not to profit from work that props up the Russian war effort.

Surprisingly, only a few U.S. law firms have yet committed to exit Russia entirely and/or decline new work from any Russian-based clients – something most of these commercial firms, each of the Big 4 accounting firms, consulting firms and every single consumer-facing firm that suspended operations in Russia (like VISA/MasterCard) have effectively agreed to; these other firms all refuse to profit from any Russian-based clients (rather than just those that are sanctioned or state-owned).

We expect this will change.  While some lawyers have always prided themselves on defending all against criminal punishment, many types of legal practice are not very different from accounting – transactional practice, for example. Defending Nuremberg defendants is one thing, but helping Volkswagen borrow money or I.G. Farben expand globally during or in the lead up to WWII is another.

Below is a list of the AmLaw 100 And UK100 firms that have pledged to:

  1. decline any new work for clients based in Russia;
  2. withdraw from any current such engagements unless prohibited by legal ethics or courts (other than work defending against Russian prosecution or civil suits).

Below is a list of the AmLaw 100 and UK 100 firms that have made the more limited pledge to:

  1. decline new work for (a) the Russian government, (b) state-owned or state-controlled firms, and (c) sanctioned entities and individuals; and
  2. withdraw from any current such engagements unless prohibited by legal ethics or courts (other than work defending against Russian prosecution or civil suits).

These firms retain the option of working for Russian clients that do meet these criteria.   However, a Russian client wealthy enough to hire a big law firm for transactional work is likely connected to the Kremlin.

Below are the AmLaw 100 and UK100 firms that have not yet spoken about Russia, Ukraine, and their plans to withdraw, suspend, exit, decline matters, or otherwise address the topic.

For those firms without Russian clients or Russian-related business, this silence may be understandable, but since client identities are not observable to the public, their prospective recruits, or others, these firms may want to address the topic if only to say “we have no Russian clients and don’t intend to take on any.” Such pledges would reduce the risk that other firms’ withdrawals from current engagements might be seen as benefiting their rivals.

Below are the AmLaw 100 and UK100 firms that have issued statements about Russia or Ukraine and still have not clearly pledged to take the steps identified above. Firms in this list have announced some policy, but have not said they would (1) decline new work for the Russian government, state-owned/controlled firms, or sanctioned entities/individuals; and (2) withdraw from any current such engagements unless prohibited by legal ethics or courts.

Some firms have made clear statements about current clients or matters but not made clear commitments about future clients or matters.  Clarity is important.  We encourage firms to reach out to the email listed below if they believe they have made clear commitments of the kind described above.

Representing Russian Clients

While firms can and (we believe) should turn down all new pro-Russian business, we do not expect firms to immediately cease all representation of existing clients. Defending Russians against the Russian government would generally continue to be laudable, and rules of professional conduct regulate the circumstances and processes by which lawyers can withdraw from existing representation.

Even when bound to continue representation, there is no reason law firms should profit by providing these services. Firms can demonstrate that their continued representation is driven by ethical concerns, and not fees, by committing to disgorge those fees to Ukrainian relief efforts, as Norton Rose has done. We will highlight firms that make this pledge as well.

Why track law firms?

We want to understand how law firms are responding to this seismic rupture in the international order and professional norms about client representation. Lawyers have a special obligation to support the rule of law and democratic freedoms. They also help grease the wheels of commerce. Lawyers are the “transaction cost engineers” that structure deals, help companies raise capital by issuing stocks and bonds, and comply with regulations. They can work to strengthen or undermine economic sanctions.

We hope it will help to collect information about the policies of these large law firms. Converging on a uniform standard can create a focal point that can be harder for firms to resist or obfuscate, and will remove the risk that a firm’s withdrawal will only benefit their rivals.


Our research team from Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School and Yale Law School, and students from the Cambridge Law Society, will be updating these lists over time. This coding is based on press reports, press releases and emails sent to us at the address below (unless we are asked not to release the contents).

If you have any questions or updated information about the firms on this list, please contact:

This project is organized by Professors Ian Ayres, John Coates and Robert Daines.

Faculty and Research

  • Deputy Dean
  • Oscar M. Ruebhausen Professor of Law

Yale Law School

  • John F. Cogan, Jr. Professor of Law and Economics
  • Research Director, Center on the Legal Profession

Harvard Law School

The material on this page represents the views of individual faculty members involved in the project and not an official position of Stanford University or Stanford Law School.