Information on how the legal sector can support Ukraine
Advice from the Law Society of England and Wales on how firms and lawyers can help
Ukraine Advice Project UK
Immigration lawyers have launched an advice service to provide free help and support to Ukrainians seeking refuge in the UK in the wake of the Russian invasion. The project is being supported by DLA Piper.
Get in touch by emailing [email protected] if you’re:
- A qualified immigration lawyer looking to volunteer pro bono advice, or;
- A Ukrainian national seeking immigration legal advice.
The Ukraine Justice Alliance
Lawyers, law firms and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have formed a coalition offering legal expertise and support to Ukrainian people, Ukrainian NGOs, civil society organisations and the government of Ukraine.
The group plans to focus on activities such as:
- Accountability and prosecutions.
- Evidence-gathering and information provision.
- Strategic refugee and asylum advice.
The immediate focus is on practical assistance for Ukrainians on the ground and critical legal issues, such as immigration and preservation of evidence.
If you’re a lawyer with relevant expertise (such as international criminal law) looking to help, email [email protected].
England and Wales are “open to Ukrainian lawyers and law firms”
Ukrainian lawyers who relocate to England and Wales are entitled to practise under their home-country professional title. They do not need to qualify as solicitors nor sit any exam in order to practise here.
They can provide legal services in Ukrainian law, international law and English law (including drafting contracts) with the only exception of a small number of activities.
They can work:
- In a UK law firm.
- In a company as in-house lawyers.
- As sole practitioners, or;
- In partnership with, or be employed by, English and Welsh solicitors or other international lawyers.
If a Ukrainian lawyers wishes to gain the professional title of “solicitor”, they can sit the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), though this is not necessary to practise under your home professional title (see above).
The SRA welcomes applications from lawyers from Ukraine and is happy to discuss individual circumstances. It will make decisions on a case-by-case basis, using the available evidence.
Where it is difficult to access to certain documents required for the exam, alternative documentation can be used to support an application.
Ukrainian law firms
Ukrainian law firms can open offices in England and Wales.
They do not need to register with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) unless they want to provide services in a small number of areas. No permission is required to establish a business presence in the UK, although there are regulations on the use of business names and in certain business sectors.
There are many charities running appeals in response to the crisis in Ukraine. Some of the largest national appeals are:
The Law Society notes that this is not an exhaustive list.
Information from the Bar Council
In March 2022, the Bar Council launched a new project to foster dialogue, solidarity and support between barristers in England and Wales and Ukrainian lawyers.
This new initiative involves:
1) In relation to the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme, gathering names of barristers and judges who want to sponsor Ukrainian lawyers to come to the UK and where possible matching them with Ukrainian colleagues through our partnership with the Ukrainian National Bar Association and the Ukrainian Bar Association.
The Bar Council has already received names of Ukrainian lawyers and their families who want to come to the UK, and we have also been contacted by barristers and judges in England and Wales who want to sponsor Ukrainian lawyers.
2) Encouraging Chambers in England and Wales to identify possible projects and work opportunities for Ukrainian lawyers, who have decided to stay in Ukraine or who have fled to other countries.
3) Supporting various sister organisations, including the two Bar associations in Ukraine and those in other Eastern European countries who are closer to the front line.
4) Fostering a supportive dialogue between the Young Bar in England and Wales and its counterparts in Ukraine.
If you are a barrister or judge and willing to sponsor a Ukrainian attempting to enter the UK, please email the Bar Council and provide the following information:
- Your full name.
- The first half of your postcode.
- How many people you would be willing to host in your home.
- How many bedrooms you have available in your home.
- Any requests/preferences of the individuals/families you sponsor (for example you might prefer children of a certain age if you have children, you may be prepared to accept pets).
- Whether you would sponsor non-lawyer Ukrainians (at this early stage we are likely to only match barristers and judges with Ukrainian lawyers as that will be the simplest cohort for the Ukrainian National Bar Association to identify).
100% of partners in Ukrainian firms said they wished to receive information about potential secondments for staff in law firms abroad, which offer a way to get lawyers to safety while allowing them to continue practising. The Ukrainian Bar Association said:
“It is worth noting that secondments are popular not so much in terms of financial support for lawyers, but as a tool to maintain their professional level and gain new experience.”
One secondment scheme launched in the interest of protecting the developing career of law students and young lawyers is the “Safe Harbor 4 UA Students” scheme organised by Patricia Shaughnessy and Alicja Zielinska-Eisen:
“[The scheme’s goal is] to provide the law students from Ukraine with a ‘Safe Harbor’: safe and friendly environments to enable them to grow, pursue their legal education, and plan for the future.
We are able to offer students an ‘internship package’ that includes a 3-month (or longer) internship, accommodation, travel logistics assistance, a living expense stipend, and social and educational activities and networking opportunities.”
Speaking at the International Chambers of Commerce Young Arbitrators Forum on assistance to Ukrainian lawyers (14th April 2022), Shaughnessy stated that 250 applications had been received and 49 Ukrainians had been placed on secondment in other countries. One example of a host organisation is the German Arbitration Institute (DIS), which announced its intake of two young Ukrainians.
Homes for Ukraine scheme
The government has opened a scheme allowing individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to help bring Ukrainians to safety, including those with no family ties to the UK.
How is the legal sector in Ukraine responding?
The legal sector in Ukraine has been steadfast in the face of humanitarian and financial difficulties following Russia’s invasion.
Many firms are offering free legal advice to their citizens and supporting the government with supplies and money, despite losing vast amounts of money and almost all their male staff of fighting age. Read more here.