Ukrainian lawyers, mostly women, are reaching out to legal recruiters in the U.K. seeking work—a very early-days phenomenon that recruiters expect to accelerate over the next few weeks.
Several international and domestic law firms, as well as professional service firms, have already committed to taking Ukrainian lawyers on, recruiters say, and they hope to assist with accommodation, too. However, big challenges remain around immigration and a string of local dangers, as war continues to ravage chunks of Ukraine.
Legal recruiters, who are working on the job placements on a pro bono basis, said they had been contacted by Ukrainian lawyers looking for full-time work with the hope that they can come and settle in the U.K. within the coming weeks. The vast majority of lawyers seeking work outside of Ukraine are women, as most Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are by law required to stay back and fight.
Edward Parker, director at Fides Search, said he was helping a growing number of female Ukrainian lawyers, most of whom are still in Ukraine, find work at various law firms and other professional service firms.
Having received a string of inquiries, Parker sent a note to 15 to 20 client firms, and within two or three days he had received “multiple responses” from firms wanting to know more or committing to taking people on board.
“I’ve spent two or three weeks speaking to [the clients] and understanding what could fit,” Parker said. “Families have been torn apart and homes destroyed. So I didn’t want to be in a position where we promised something that couldn’t materialize.”
Amanda Chard, head of interim legal recruitment at Marsden International Legal Search in London, told Law.com International: “In the last 24 hours, we received the first approach in our inbox, and she is sitting in Warsaw right now sorting out a visa.” The lawyer in question has family in the U.K.
“It’s all still quite fresh, and in the next couple of weeks we will most likely have a new view,” Chard said.
One legal recruiter in the U.K. told Law.com International that Ukrainian lawyers were “approaching us as recruiters, so I suspect we will now start the outreach to firms so we can work out where to place them—most likely on interim contracts.”
The door is apparently swinging both ways. International law firms have started to look for Ukrainian speakers and experts in law and business to help advise clients, as pro bono efforts and Ukraine-tied work increase due to the myriad of commercial challenges brought about by the war, recruiters said.
A senior consultant at a legal recruiter in the U.K. said that law, consulting and banking firms were also actively looking for people with knowledge of Ukrainian law, preferably with language skills, to be based primarily in Prague or Poland.
“These firms have indicated that they would make room on their teams for such people,” the consultant told Law.com International.
At Fides, lawyers are issued a contact form and they provide a CV and details on where they are hoping to land and time frames they are working toward.
“Logistics are a nightmare. Most people don’t want to leave, out of loyalty or family ties. It’s with real reluctance that they’re engaging in leaving Ukraine. But it’s genuinely dangerous to get out. It’s terrifying.”
Fides’ Parker cited examples of the caliber of lawyers approaching him. One is an energy lawyer of significant experience, multiple qualifications, speaks four languages, while another has strong banking and mergers and acquisitions profile, he said.
Parker is working closely with “leading domestic firms or international law firms, or professional services firms,” as well as in-house teams: banks, asset managers, funds and tech companies in order to place the lawyers.
A number of his clients have the bandwidth to reach out to employee networks and try to find them accommodation, too, he said.
“The best scenario would be that the war stops, but failing that, our assumption is that the numbers will increase over the coming weeks/months,” Parker said. ”It may take lawyers several weeks or more before they land in the U.K.”
Another U.K.-based legal recruiter, who had in the space of two days been contacted by about 12 Ukrainian women lawyers, said the trend was brought about “firstly by a desperate need to get out of Ukraine as tanks encroach in cities,” as well as “choking workstreams amid the war.” But it is also propelled by lawyers who have found refuge in Poland, Romania and Moldova who “need to restart their careers” as they continue to help with humanitarian causes and try to get friends and family across the border.
“It’s a hyper stressful time for those who have crossed the border but still have family in the thick of war. These people, lawyers among them, need money, they need aid,” the recruiter said. “Law is a trusted industry. It can help in all sorts of ways. Assisting with finding work, with visas, and at borders is key. Lawyers need to know that. They might not know it yet, but they can help.”