No Ordinary Grief: The Plight of Lawyers Leaving Ukraine
...Law firms have been trying to deal with the difficulties that face their people who have stayed in Ukraine. Men have to remain unless they meet one of the exemptions, such as being a father of more than three young children. For this reason, Dr. Oleksiy Feliv, managing partner of INTEGRITES, was able to get to Berlin with his wife and four children upon the outbreak of the war. He understood that many of his employees could not leave, and as a result many of their families did not want to leave on their own.
Oleksiy Feliv, managing partner of INTEGRITES and his team in the Kyiv Office for Constitution day
So, at the beginning of the war, Feliv arranged accommodation in western Ukraine where the firm had been due to have its corporate retreat. It was considered safer than Kyiv and meant that families could stay together and employees could continue their work – albeit heavily reduced. Feliv’s focus is to ensure that it is not just the lawyers who have fled Ukraine who are supported, but the ones who remain at home too. A third of his top-earning employees – including himself – have taken pay cuts so that they could keep every single member of staff employed. They are proud of the fact that, despite a dramatic decrease in incoming work due to the war, they have made no redundancies.
International companies providing secondments to a number of Ukrainian law firms have been a real lifeline, and help keep the Ukrainian economy afloat as much as possible. Firms and companies supporting Ukrainians with this kind of work include Allen & Overy, Booking.com, Simmons & Simmons and Squire Patton Boggs. Virtual and physical secondments for lawyers have taken the pressure off of Ukrainian law firms at a time when work is at an all-time low, while still ensuring that Ukrainians can bring in money for their families and the economy. Physical secondments are not just taking place in the UK, but across Europe in locations like Germany, Slovakia, France, Finland and Austria.
There is an air of positivity when talking to Ukrainian lawyers still in Kyiv, and this year’s independence day is a reminder of everything they are fighting for. Air raid sirens are still common, and anxieties are high over potential Russian attacks this week. Offices will be closed and Ukraine’s independence day will not be celebrated in the way it has been before.
But despite all of this there is a deep gratitude among those in Ukraine: gratitude that they are still standing thus far, gratitude to the individuals and activists internationally who are keeping Ukraine in people’s minds, and most of all gratitude to their fellow Ukrainians who are supporting and fighting for their homeland and continue to see hope where others see loss.