How are lawyers offering their support to Ukrainian people

Here are some of the ways in which lawyers are offering their support to Ukrainian people

Following Russian president Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February over two million refugees have fled the country, according to the United Nations. Lawyers and businesses are offering their support in a number of ways.

A group of legal professionals with expertise in immigration law have set up a website to give free UK immigration advice for Ukrainians. This website (https://advice-ukraine.co.uk) was set up on 28 February.

Who started the Advice-Ukraine initiative?

Miranda Butler, a barrister at Landmark Chambers was one of the founding members. She told Crafty Counsel, in an email exchange, that over 300 lawyers have signed up to the project. Most of those who have signed up have been asked to take a case and some volunteers have taken several cases.

Miranda started the project along with John Vassiliou, Senior Associate at Sheppard and Wedderburn, Jennifer Blair barrister at No5 Chambers, Alex Piletska, an Associate at Turpin & Mill LLP and CJ McKinney, editor of Free Movement (a website that offers immmigration information and support). They started the group with the hope that “it would be a useful platform for those in need of help and those wanting to offer their time”.

The group are friends and set up the Ukraine Advice Project when they were all together attending a housewarming party, the weekend after Russia invaded Ukraine. Simon Cox, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, joined the group and Miranda says “the project has grown exponentially since then”. She says they “have been blown away by the enthusiasm from the legal profession”.

How many who have been affected by the invasion have been helped?

Miranda says over 300 people affected by the invasion have already been connected to volunteer lawyers offering free advice and they are “working as quickly as possible” to meet the demand of many more requests.

How can you help?

If you are an immigration lawyer in the UK:

If you are a solicitor, barrister or OISC/IAAS accredited lawyer with immigration and asylum expertise you can sign up at https://advice-ukraine.co.uk/. The Bar Standards Board and Faculty of Advocates have waived the requirement to be Public Access accredited for this work so barristers can volunteer without the usual accreditation, Miranda says.

If you are a lawyer, but with no immigration experience:

Miranda says it has been”cheering to see non-immigration lawyers wanting to offer their expertise.” She recommends that they find a local refugee organisation and volunteer their services to them. Can you donate funds?

If you are not a lawyer, but want to donate?

The group is a voluntary organisation, so it is run by the good will of volunteers and they don't take donations. Miranda recommends that if people want to make donations to organisations, helping Ukrainians they can donate to the following organisations.

Another aid group of international lawyers and law firms 

Another group of international lawyers, law firms and other legal providers, have started an initiative to provide pro bono legal services for Ukrianians, The Ukrainian Crisis Legal Aid Database.

Oliver Koppany, Foreign Legal Counsel at KNP LAW in Hungary was one of the people who started the initiative and he credits the BigLawBoiz group with “creating a buzz around it” via their Instagram page. The team at HyperDraft AI, a legal tech company that specialises in contracting tools for lawyers, joined the initiative to provide the necessary technological infrastructure.

Oliver spoke to Crafty Counsel via email. He says the project is supported by a number of law firms including Willkie Farr & Gallagher, and Katten Muchin Rosenman. The group is partnering with tech company Amiqus, who will assist them with “running sanctions, anti-money laundering (AML) and terror watchlist checks to provide a layer of security for all those involved.”

The project has had 2000 sign ups from individual lawyers and Oliver says if that is added to the lawyers supporting the project through the law firms then that number increases to around 4000 lawyers in total who are so far volunteering their time and services.

How are they matching those who need help with qualified lawyers?

The groups says they started off by manually matching lawyers with those affected by the invasion, but they quickly realised “that it won't be possible due to the scale of the project.”

Oliver describes the group as “an amazing legal tech AI group from LA, a meme Instagrammer, and a guy in Hungary”. He says they do not have the infrastructure in place to match cases with qualified lawyers, so a team in Los Angeles is developing a way in which cases can be posted and lawyers can choose cases based on their own expertise and also work with local NGOs and legal aid organisations with subject matter expertise.

How can other lawyers get involved?

Oliver says they can sign up at www.ukrainelegalaid.org.

What sort of legal support is offered?

Oliver says that the platform has a number of lawyers from around the world. Their expertise range from “immigration, to trusts and estates, and everything in between”.

He says that although “a lot of people right now need advice and help with immigration” they will soon need help with for example “setting up a small business in Poland or Germany”.

Oliver hopes this platform will connect them to the right people.

How many countries, and which countries, are represented by the legal volunteers?

Oliver says legal professionals from across the world from Alaska to Australia, India to Brazil have signed up. “It truly consists of people from every part of the world,” Oliver says.

Once the infrastructure is in place “the limit on how many Ukrainians can be helped is going to be based on attorney participation – but based on what we have seen, participation and interest is extremely high,” Oliver says.

Message from a General Counsel in Ukraine

Irina Kravtsova, General Counsel of the Ukrainian subsidiary of a European business, founder of the General Counsel Club in Ukraine, and a current PhD student shared a message from Ukraine with Crafty Counsel. She says “war changes everything. What yesterday was priceless, today became meaningless, and vice versa.”

Irina says war is when “all of your life should be put in one bag.” She says you have to prioriotise the items that keep you “warm and comfortable” and with which you can run.

She says that people forget what humanity means and it leads to war. She says that humanity lays the ground for “prosperity”, “wellness” and “life”.

Her message to the legal society is that the war “shows that many multinational companies have their high ethics norms only on paper.”

She says companies use these “high claims” in order to promote their companies to the market, to gain new customers and to increase profit.

But, she says companies should rethink their “ethics codes” and that they should be aligned to “ones that really work on humanity” and not only the ones that earn money. 

Kiev vs Kyiv

It is useful to beware of the preferred spelling of Kyiv, the Ukrainian way, as opposed to Kiev, which is derived from the Russian spelling. This Guardian article explores this topic.

Please get in touch

If you know of other initiatives or you are an in-house lawyer who has helped your business in its support efforts and would like us to tell your story please get in touch with our head of content Renée Graham at renee@craftycounsel.co.uk.