In October 2022, the European Commission approved the eighth package of sanctions against Russia. Among other restrictions it established a ban on the provision of legal services to Russian companies. A few weeks later, on October 24, the European Commission published answers to frequently asked questions including explanations as to what kind of legal services fall under the ban and whether the extension of sanctions to this sphere does not entail restrictions on the right to protection.
Sphere of application
From October 07, 2022, the provision of legal services (and in addition, architectural, engineering and IT services) to both the state and Russian legal entities is prohibited.
The prohibited legal advisory services include:
the provision of legal advice1 to customers in non-contentious matters, including commercial transactions, involving the application or interpretation of law;
participation with or on behalf of clients in commercial transactions, negotiations and other dealings with third parties;
preparation, execution and verification of legal documents.
Legal services excluded from the ban
Legal services which were not mentioned above are not covered by the restrictions. Among them the provision of services that are strictly necessary:
for the termination by 8 January 2023 of contracts which are not compliant with new amendments concluded before 7 October 2022 or of ancillary contracts necessary for the execution of such contracts
for the exercise of the right of defence in judicial proceedings and the right to an effective legal remedy2
to ensure access to judicial, administrative or arbitral proceedings in a Member State or for the recognition or enforcement of a judgment or an arbitration award rendered in a Member State, provided that such provision of services is consistent with the objectives of this Regulation and of Council Regulation (EU) No 269/2014
provision of services intended for the exclusive use of legal persons, entities or bodies established in Russia that are owned by, or solely or jointly controlled by, a legal person, entity or body which is incorporated or constituted under the law of a Member State, a country member of the European Economic Area, Switzerland or a partner country, as listed in Annex VIII of Council Regulation 833/2014
for public health emergencies, the urgent prevention or mitigation of an event likely to have a serious and significant impact on human health and safety or the environment, or as a response to natural disasters
Position of European non-member statesDespite the implementation of sanctions on legal services by EU member states, other states are unwilling to support this initiative. For example, Switzerland which joined the eighth package of EU sanctions, in fact, agreed only to the introduction of personal sanctions as it did not introduce a ban on the provision of legal services. The United Kingdom did the same. Despite the ban on the provision of legal services announced on September 30, 2022, the latest restrictive measures published at the end of October did not include legal services in the list of prohibited services. There are no restrictions imposed by the United Kingdom in this sphere by now.
1 The list of legal advice covered by ban is not mentioned
2 The definition of “an effective legal remedy” is not given