Amid Sanctions, Global Law Firms Face Russian Reckoning

Doing business in Russia was never for the faint of heart. Now, as the grip of Western sanctions tightens, the global law firms that helped create a modern Russian legal market are finding it harder than ever to compete.

The United States and the European Union first hit Russia with extreme economic sanctions in 2014, following the invasion of Crimea. Responding to alleged meddling in the 2016 election, the U.S. doubled down on 24 specific oligarchs allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin in April. As the relationship between the two nations continues to deteriorate, the prospect of further sanctions hovers.

The growing tensions are posing new obstacles for international law firms that have proliferated in Moscow since the collapse of the Soviet Union. And they’re creating new opportunities for Russian firms—demonstrated most recently by a high-billing team that decamped earlier this month from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to launch their own Moscow boutique.

At the same time, many of these firms have a 25-year legacy in Russia that won’t be easily dislodged.

When Doran Doeh, now a senior counsel with Dentons, first arrived in the country in the early 1990s as an oil and gas specialist with Allen & Overy, one consequence of the transition away from the Soviet system was the near impossibility of finding the people necessary to run an outpost of an international law firm. (Read more….)