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Legal Profession: Russia

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 2441, tabled on 16 May 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department is taking to ensure law firms in the UK do not undertake work that supports the Russian state.

Answered on

24 May 2022

Legal services are distinct from other services in the role they play in supporting a flourishing democracy and upholding the rule of law. Access to legal professionals is considered a fundamental right in democratic societies. It enables businesses and individuals to exercise their rights and comply with their duties. We only have to look at Russia – where corruption is rife and Government critics are silenced - to see why the rule of law is so important. Here in the UK, rule of law means that everyone has a right to access legal representation. The Government needs to defend these rights – in contrast to authoritarian jurisdictions.

The legal sector is critical to the operation of an effective sanctions regime and law firms have a responsibility to protect the reputation of their profession and the integrity of our legal system. The Ministry of Justice is confident that the overwhelming majority of law firms operate to the highest ethical standard. Lawyers already face significant anti-money laundering responsibilities and duties, as well as strict procedures when transacting with sanctioned individuals (including within the Russian state). Licenses from the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) are required for payments to be made to law firms for legal services. And lawyers must abide by their professional codes of conduct, enforced by independent regulators such as the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board (BSB). In response to the crisis, the SRA has stepped up spot checks and investigations to monitor and enforce compliance with the sanctions regime.

The Government does not routinely hold information on law firms working on behalf of the Russian state.