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Clyde & Co to form 2,600-lawyer shop in merger with UK law firm BLM

Skyscrapers in the City of London financial district are seen on a foggy morning, December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Toby MelvilleRegister now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

RegisterCombination will expand Clyde & Co’s insurance practiceMerger with smaller firm BLM set to take effect in July

(Reuters) – London-founded global law firm Clyde & Co will combine with BLM, an insurance-focused firm with offices in the UK and Ireland, the firms said on Monday.

Partners at both firms agreed to the merger, effective in July, that will create a combined firm with an annual revenue of more than 700 million pounds ($916.02 million), the firms said.

The combined firm, which will go by the Clyde & Co name, will have about 2,600 lawyers total, according to a firm statement.Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

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Clyde & Co, the larger firm with 2,000 lawyers, said it specializes in sectors including insurance, infrastructure and energy.

The move will see most of BLM’s lawyers join Clyde & Co’s casualty insurance group, with other lawyers adding to the firm’s professional liability and healthcare teams, the firms said.

James Cooper, chair of Clyde & Co’s global insurance practice group, said in a statement the firm has “long sought” a merger to scale up its UK casualty insurance work and “provide the full scope of services, technology, data analytics and innovation” for those clients.

The combined firm will have offices in more than 60 cities globally.

Clyde & Co has 60 partners in the U.S. in 13 offices, including New York, Denver, Miami and San Francisco, according to the firm’s website.

Clyde & Co has done at least seven other mergers, most recently in July 2021 with a small law firm in Vancouver. The deal with BLM would be the firm’s largest combination by revenue and headcount since its 2011 merger with London-founded Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, Clyde & Co said.

Read more:

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Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.Sara Merken

Sara Merken reports on privacy and data security, as well as the business of law, including legal innovation and key players in the legal services industry. Reach her at sara.merken@thomsonreuters.com

Ukraine’s Zelenskiy hires U.S. law firm for sanctions advice

By Jacqueline Thomsen and Mike Scarcella

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office has hired an American law firm to advise on Western sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion and help engage with U.S. officials on policy matters, according to a filing with the U.S. Justice Department.

San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster will counsel Zelenskiy’s office on regulatory issues “including U.S., EU and UK sanctions regimes,” John Smith, a partner in the firm, said in the Monday filing.

Smith led the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which oversees American sanctions, before joining Morrison & Foerster in 2018. Smith said in the filing that Morrison & Foerster will perform the work at no cost to Ukraine.

The United States, European Union and Britain have imposed a series of sanctions targeting Russia, its financial institutions, oligarchs and parliament since Russia invaded Ukraine last month. The filing did not make clear whether there are specific sanctions about which the firm will provide advice.

The firm said it will help Zelenskiy engage with U.S. officials on evolving policy matters, but did not provide specifics.

Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. law requires law firms, lobbyists and others to disclose certain advocacy work for foreign clients. Morrison & Foerster has not previously registered to represent a foreign entity, according to the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act database.

Ukraine’s government has hired at least two other U.S. law firms following the Russian invasion.

Covington & Burling, headquartered in Washington, is representing Ukraine before the International Court of Justice, obtaining a ruling this month instructing Russia to stop its military operations. Attorneys at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, founded in Los Angeles, are representing Ukraine before the European Court of Human Rights in a case accusing Russia of human rights abuses.

(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen and Mike Scarcella in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and David Bario)

Pressure on ‘magic circle’ law firms after UK auditors quit Russia

Britain’s biggest accountants have all pulled out of Russia after being blasted for tacitly supporting Vladimir Putin’s regime.

KPMG and PwC announced they would cut ties with their Russian arms on Sunday, while EY and Deloitte followed suit yesterday.

Critics have now turned their scrutiny to the so-called Magic Circle law firms, which have represented swathes of Russian businesses in recent years.

Feeling the chill: London firms are increasingly shunning Moscow with big name auditors the latest to pull out

One of those leading firms, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, even recently decided to work for sanctions-hit VTB Bank as it tried to sue one of Africa’s poorest nations, the Mail on Sunday revealed. 

Freshfields said on Monday that it had terminated its relationship with VTB, but declined to take any more drastic steps.

A spokesman said: ‘This is a very fast moving situation. We continue to assess the impact on our Moscow office as a matter of priority and will provide further updates as and when appropriate.

‘As you would expect, one of our top priorities throughout this crisis has been the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues in Moscow.’ 

Altogether, Britain’s five Magic Circle firms employ more than 150 lawyers in Moscow. Linklaters, which opened its office in the country in 1992, is so far the only one to have fully distanced itself.

It plans to wind down its operations and close the Moscow office, and added that it will not act for any individuals or entities connected to the Russian state.

It had previously advised gas supplier Gazprom on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipeline projects, and worked for oil giant Rosneft

London-based Norton Rose Fulbright, which is not part of the top five elite law firms but is still seen as one of the country’s most prestigious legal groups, also agreed to close its Moscow office.

But others have been slower off the mark. Clifford Chance said in a LinkedIn post that it would ‘not accept new mandates from any Russian state entity, Russian state-owned enterprises or individuals identified as having close connections to President Putin’.

The firm added that it would also ‘review’ existing Russia-related work.

In a similar post, Allen & Overy said it was ‘reviewing our Russia-related portfolio, and as a result we will refuse new instructions and stop all Russia-linked work that goes against our values’.

Slaughter and May does not have an office in Russia, has no active clients in the country and said it had done ‘very little work’ there. 

Senior partner Steve Cooke added: ‘We are appalled by the attack on Ukraine by Russia and the human suffering that is occurring as a result.’

The disquiet in the boardrooms of Britain’s City firms comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave lawyers an ominous warning last week.

‘The legal profession, everybody involved in assisting those who wish to hide money in London and assisting corrupt oligarchs, have been set on notice that their actions are under scrutiny,’ he told Parliament.

‘If they break the law, if they undermine the interests of this country and advance the interests of Putin’s war machine, they will pay a price.’

MPs and campaigners had also slammed Britain’s lucrative professional services industry for continuing to work for Russian businesses – many of which are state-backed.

Former Tory Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘A lot of other companies already have cut ties, and the rest should follow suit. It’s time to shut down and time to leave.’

State-backed: The Kremlin building seen from Moscow’s Red Square. MPs and campaigners had slammed Britain’s professional services industry for continuing to work for Russian firms

Bill Browder, a financier and campaigner who was instrumental in creating the Magnitsky Act to punish Russian human rights violators, added that Western firms pulling out of Russia would create a ‘terrible’ environment for businesses in the country – piling further pressure on Putin to end his murderous rampage.

The Big Four auditors – EY, KPMG, PwC and Deloitte – will not shutter their Russian offices, but instead will push them out of their wider global networks.

This means the Russian branches, which together employ around 13,000 staff, will have to operate on their own – backed by their partners.

They will not pay any of their profits to the wider groups, and will not receive any support in matters such as IT or finding new work. They will also have to find new names.

As it cut ties on Sunday, a KPMG spokesman said: ‘KPMG has over 4,500 people in Russia and Belarus, and ending our working relationship with them, many of whom have been a part of KPMG for many decades, is incredibly difficult.

‘This decision is not about them – it is a consequence of the actions of the Russian government.’

Jon Holt, chief executive of KPMG UK, added that the British branch of the audit giant had also terminated a ‘small number’ of contracts relating to individuals and entities connected to the Russian state.

EY branded the invasion of Ukraine ‘shocking and abhorrent’, while Deloitte added: ‘We know our colleagues in Russia and Belarus have no voice in the actions of their government. We will support all impacted colleagues during this transition.’

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