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Law360 (March 2, 2022, 3:37 PM EST) — As Russia intensifies its attacks, more firms are opening their pocketbooks and offering legal aid in support of Ukraine.
More than a dozen law firms, including Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Milbank LLP and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, have told Law360 they are donating funds or launching pro bono projects as the Eastern European country endures Russia’s air strikes and military invasion.
Some are utilizing their offices in Poland to help refugees, while others are directing lawyers and staff to donate through charity foundations. Meanwhile, several have said they will be reviewing their Russian clients and cutting ties where appropriate. Here, Law360 Pulse rounds up how law firms have been responding so far.
Several firms have said they’re donating money to humanitarian relief organizations and also matching what their attorneys and staff donate to a certain dollar amount. Jamie Levitt, chair of Morrison & Foerster’s charitable foundation, said this is often the best way to stretch donations as far as possible and help lawyers at the firm feel connected and engaged.
“I think it’s clear from the outpouring here that people do want to help,” Levitt said. “All giving is important, but I love that we can engage the entire community to feel like they can participate. And I hope it means we’re giving a whole lot more than we could otherwise.”
The Morrison & Foerster Foundation is donating just under $17,000 to the International Rescue committee, which is on the ground in Poland aiding displaced families; $15,000 to Project C.U.R.E., which is distributing donated medical equipment and supplies to Ukrainian hospitals in Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa and other affected cities; and another $15,000 to World Central Kitchen, which provides meals for displaced Ukrainian families in Poland and Romania.
The firm is also doing a match challenge, where it will match what attorneys and staff donate to the aid organization of their choice up to $25,000, although Levitt said the firm may have already surpassed this goal and will likely increase the match limit. The foundation, which was created in 1986, doesn’t necessarily match what individual lawyers pay to specific organizations, but will donate the $25,000-plus to organizations where they think their money will go the furthest, Levitt said.
“We want to focus on things that are very much direct aid — we want to find organizations where our donations are meaningful,” she said. “Our numbers are big, but they’re not moving millions and millions, and so we want these to be impactful donations that are treating the core issues we see as necessary.”
Orrick Chairman Mitch Zuklie announced Wednesday afternoon that the firm would be establishing an Orrick Ukraine Relief Fund, beginning with a $25,000 contribution to be split between the International Rescue Committee and United Help Ukraine. The firm will also match individual contributions up to $25,000, a spokesperson told Law360.
Norton Rose Fulbright also told Law360 it has raised more than $300,000 so far for Ukrainian aid organizations, including $200,000 going toward Save the Children for Ukraine and $100,000 to the Canadian Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. A spokesperson for the firm said it hopes to raise even more with a match program and has already raised at least $20,000 through matches.
Akin Gump Chairwoman Kim Koopersmith said in a statement the firm will be donating $100,000 toward humanitarian efforts, but it was still assessing which organizations would be most effective.
Steptoe & Johnson told Law360 it would be matching its lawyers’ individual contributions up to $100 each. Allen & Overy LLP said that it had donated to the Red Cross, and Seyfarth Shaw LLP said it had donated to United Help Ukraine.
Meanwhile, other firms have been lending their legal services to those fleeing Ukraine. Koopersmith said Akin Gump would be linking attorneys to pro bono opportunities helping with immigration and supporting non-governmental organizations.
Steptoe & Johnson said its attorneys in Brussels have been coordinating immigration advice and “additional projects will take shape over the coming days.”
Some firms were more specific with their plans to help. Miller Canfield LLP said it would be utilizing its three offices in Poland to take calls from individuals and companies seeking legal advice and assistance for refugees who have come from Poland.
“Specifically, the inquiries relate to immigration regulations, employment and registration requirements in Poland and other [European Union] countries, as well as information about charity organizations that are providing assistance,” a spokesperson for the firm said. “We are working with our network of trusted attorneys in Ukraine and throughout Poland and the EU to provide pro bono assistance to refugees and to refer them to attorneys who can help with their specific needs.”
Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP said it has an internal working group running reports and analysis on the conflict. The firm told Law360 it has been using its immigration information platform Advisor to provide updates to clients in Ukraine and elsewhere.
“We are proactively running reports and analysis while getting behind-the-scenes input from our government contacts,” a spokesperson for the firm said. “We are focused on the immediate support for employees and families while helping companies develop longer-term workforce strategies.”
Norton Rose said it has been working on programs to help Ukrainians relocate, including signing up lawyers for a project organized by Lawyers for Good Government called Project Corazon. The platform is asking attorneys to sign up and be listed in a database that will connect them with individuals who are working to apply for Temporary Protected Status for entrance into the United States, or Deferred Enforced Departure for Ukrainians already in the U.S.
Rene Kathawala, Pro Bono Counsel for Orrick, told Law360 the firm is offering pro bono help to the Public International Law & Policy Group by drafting “quick guides” about formal ways the international community can hold Russia accountable for “atrocity, crimes and human rights violations being perpetrated in Ukraine.”
He said lawyers are currently working with the group on issues related to the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, U.N. General Assembly and the European Court of Human Rights and the U.N. Human Rights Council, specifically related to questions about Russia’s seat and if and how it may be removed.
Joining Baker McKenzie, Venable LLP and Sidley Austin LLP, some other international firms have put out statements about reviewing and cutting ties with some of their Russian clients.
“We are 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,” Allen & Overy said in a LinkedIn post Wednesday. “We will, naturally, vigorously implement all political decisions and comply with applicable sanctions and rules.”
Norton Rose also addressed its ties to the country in a LinkedIn statement from Global Chief Executive Gerry Pecht.
“Norton Rose Fulbright’s leadership unequivocally stands with the people of Ukraine and against the invasion of their country by Russia,” Pecht wrote. “We remain profoundly shocked and saddened by the tragic events unfolding in Ukraine, and we support all efforts to end this war.”
Pecht continued on to say the firm is “mindful” of the 50-plus lawyers and staff and their families who are located in the firm’s Moscow office, which it has not currently announced plans to close, and said the firm would be terminating some of its Russian client relationships.
“We are making the appropriate adjustments to comply with all sanctions and new laws, which will result in us ending certain of our client relationships,” he said. “We will be watching the fast-moving developments carefully and reviewing them regularly.”
Norton Rose recently issued a firmwide ban prohibiting attorneys from commenting on sanctions imposed against Russia by several countries. The firm said it put out the internal notice to ensure that clients get their legal advice “through the appropriate channels,” directly from its sanctions team.
What Other Law Firms Are Saying
Robinson & Cole LLP: “As a potential refugee crisis unfolds in Ukraine and its neighboring countries, Robinson+Cole is marshaling our pro bono volunteers and exploring opportunities to assist Ukrainian refugees in the United States and abroad. Representing immigrants and refugees in securing legal status in the United States has long been a pillar of our pro bono program, and R+C attorneys currently are active in preparing humanitarian parole applications for Afghans in the United States with family and friends still in Afghanistan under threat by the Taliban. In the near term, we are monitoring efforts to extend Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforcement Departure to Ukrainian nationals in the United States and stand ready to assist individuals with those applications.”
Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP Pro Bono Counsel Stacey Kushlefsky: “Willkie is supporting [Hungarian firm] KNP Law in their efforts to assist Ukrainian refugees seeking asylum and other forms of immigration relief. In addition to pro bono legal support, our firm will be assisting with translation and other services critical to helping those seeking safety outside of Ukraine.”
Millbank LLP: “We are closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine and are mobilizing our pro bono resources to work with relief organizations and nonprofits to help in any way we can.”
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP: “Our firm attorneys are donating pro bono hours to evacuation efforts.”
Nossaman LLP (via Twitter): “Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine. To help during this humanitarian crisis, we have made a donation to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund through Global Giving to support Ukrainians who need access to food, medical services and psychosocial support. #StandWithUkraine.”
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP: “We have a global team of professionals managing our respective efforts, and we have been extremely busy since last week pursuing opportunities to help those affected by the situation in Ukraine. There is huge demand by our people across all geographies to provide humanitarian support, financially and through pro bono work, and it has the full and dedicated attention of management and the entire partnership. Although the circumstances are unique and complex, we are applying the same thoughtful processes as other situations where an urgent response is needed — including collaboration with charities and other law firms to mobilize resources and teaming up with our relationship firms in jurisdictions close to Ukraine. This ensures we reduce duplication, maximize our collective impact, and that efforts reach those who need it most as rapidly as possible.”
Winston & Strawn LLP: Winston & Strawn launched a donation campaign with a $25,000 match from The Winston & Strawn Foundation. Match proceeds will be given to the International Committee of the Red Cross, or IRC. While the firm will honor any donations made to Ukraine-supported charities, 100% of the firm’s donation will be given to the IRC. A member of Winston’s Paris office is liaising with the Ukrainian embassy with the goal of gathering much-needed medical supplies that will be shipped to Ukraine. The first shipment is slated to leave Paris today (3/2/22).
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Chair and Managing Partner Barbara Becker: “The heart-wrenching images and reports have left our Gibson Dunn community around the globe looking for ways to join relief efforts, and we are mobilizing as a Firm to lend aid. As an initial step, we have made a donation to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a leading refugee resettlement agency. Gibson Dunn is already working closely with the IRC in response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and this donation will aid their work with local partners in Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere around the world to support Ukrainian refugees.
Our Pro Bono team is also working to identify opportunities to lend legal assistance as the situation develops, including direct services to displaced individuals and pro bono advice for nonprofits navigating the rapidly developing and increasingly complex sanctions environment. In addition to expanding our work with existing clients like the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, we are exploring new partnerships in the United States and Europe that will allow us to maximize our impact in response to the war and already unfolding humanitarian crisis. I am hopeful that we will have a real impact, working together as we have done for years in our fight to defend human rights and the rule of law.”
White & Case LLP: We are making a donation of US$1 million to the Ukrainian Red Cross Society and are matching donations made by our people to qualifying relief organizations. Additionally, we have established a legal aid hotline based in our Prague office to assist refugees.
–Additional reporting by Sarah Martinson. Editing by Alex Hubbard.
Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP’s work with international organizations.
Update: This article has been updated to include more firms’ statements and donations related to the crisis in Ukraine.
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