Speaking in a letter to The Times on Thursday, Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce condemned attempts to “scapegoat” lawyers over the UK’s business links to Russia.
Amid coverage of Russia’s sizeable presence within the UK’s economy, the role that lawyers and firms have played has been heavily scrutinised. Responding to a column in the newspaper that claimed the Law Society has a “moral obligation [to investigate lawyers] enriching themselves and their firms by defending the powerful against scrutiny”, Boyce said solicitors are “highly regulated”, defending the sector’s response to the Ukraine crisis:
“While it is right the horrors in Ukraine prompt fundamental questions about relations between the UK and Russia, it is dangerous to seek scapegoats and single out British lawyers. The reason UK law firms engaged with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union was because that was the direction of successive British governments as well as of business.
Thirty years of national policy have been reversed in a matter of weeks, and rightly so. Our law firms have responded quickly to the invasion. All Russian offices of the largest British law firms have closed or been separated from the parent firm.”
Earlier in March, Boyce responded to concerns over how law firms advise clients amid sanctions regimes:
“It is the job of solicitors to represent their clients, whoever they may be, so that the courts act fairly. This is how the public can be confident they live in a country that respects the rule of law – unlike Putin’s tyrannical regime.
Solicitors are highly regulated and are not allowed to bring spurious objections to processes – if they challenge the government’s actions, it’s because they think the government is at risk of breaking its own rules.”