Skip to main content


Complex Environments

Specialist legal advice and support in complex and hostile environments

Our team handles major incidents and disputes for corporations and their insurers in hostile and complex environments globally. This includes matters arising from casualties, major loss, war, terrorism, political risks, kidnappings, hijackings, extortions, detention of people and property, and other challenging events.

What we do in Complex Environments

We provide legal advice and frontline crisis management support. We assemble and deploy the required multi-disciplinary expertise, project manage the response and work side by side with clients throughout the lifecycle of the incident.

The Complex Environments team is an elite specialist practice group that provides legal advice and operational solutions in relation to:

  • Major Incident Crisis Response
  • War, Terrorism and Political Risk
  • Seizure and Detention of People and Property
  • Hijacking, Piracy, Kidnapping and Extortion
  • Ransom Payments – including funding, logistics and compliance
  • Malicious Risks
  • Drug Seizures and Smuggling
  • Sabotage, Blockade and Civil Commotion
  • Evacuation
  • Unlawful Killing and Active Shooter
  • Confiscation and Expropriation
  • Asset Recovery
  • Special Projects
  • Reputation Management

We provide clients with solutions to help manage and resolve major incidents in challenging regions and environments, that are often dynamic and unpredictable. We help clients anticipate - and then mitigate - potential liabilities and exposures.

Through our agile, pioneering approach, a number of our incident resolution strategy blueprints have become industry standard.

We are trusted by many of the world's leading corporations and their insurers to handle and respond to incidents which can pose an existential threat to the company's business, personnel and reputation.

We undertake on-the-ground urgent investigations and preserve and take evidence to support potential litigation and intervention by authorities. We act as evidence custodians and, backed by legal privilege, we support clients in dealing with the multi-jurisdictional disputes and investigations that often develop after a major incident. The team assists with crucial communications strategy to align public relations, regulatory obligations and engagement with stakeholders.

We often work alongside our clients' internal crisis management team, operational responders, technical advisors, public relations team, brokers and insurers.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles pervade the team's work. Listed and regulated companies are amongst those who trust us to navigate compliance, anti-money laundering, bribery, terrorism, sanctions and statutory / regulatory notifications, which are particularly prevalent in challenging environments.

The HFW Complex Environments team consists of experienced commercial litigators and specialist counsel with extensive global litigation experience, technical experts with specialist industry knowledge, ex-military personnel with combat experience, former government employees with sector experience and contacts, and media experts who can implement public relations strategies – all drawn from our global network.

The team is frequently called upon to work discretely and confidentially on some of the most high-profile and complex incidents globally, that often make headlines news.

The team also has a repertoire of global contacts to turn to, commensurate with an international law firm which has been engaged in crisis management worldwide for over 125 years. We utilise our sector and regional experience, and with our 20+ offices globally, we work across all time zones and provide a 24/7 global response. 

Our experience

  • Our team has supported clients with resolution strategies during major incidents worldwide, including in recent times in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Benin, Bulgaria, Egypt, Ecuador, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Iran, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Libya, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, Somalia, South Africa, Syria, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen, making use of our contacts in governments, the military, private military/security, financial institutions, regulatory and intelligence agencies.
  • Over the last 15 years, the team has helped to secure the release of over 1,800 hostages and recovered billions of dollars’ worth of property, bringing the team unparalleled experience in all forms of resolution strategy and ransom payment. Richard Neylon, who heads the Complex Environments team, is recognised as the leading lawyer globally in this field.
  • We have worked to release personnel, property, vessels, commodities, cargo, artwork, artefacts and cash seized/detained by States, de facto authorities and organised crime.
  • We have specialist experience in managing the complex and sensitive response to terrorist incidents, particularly kidnappings and extortion, and we are very familiar with navigating through the English Terrorism Act 2000 and international equivalents, and we regularly interact with government agencies and law enforcement on these issues.
  • We deal with allegations of smuggling, improper licensing, customs violations, interference with sovereign rights & resources and international maritime boundary disputes.
  • We were instructed by the insurers/operators of 25 vessels stranded in Ukrainian ports as a result of the Russia/Ukraine war. The team assisted with the initial crew evacuations and continues to handle complex trading disputes, constructive total loss (CTL)/coverage issues, and sale of post-CTL distressed maritime assets. The team also continues to work to secure the release of vessels, cargo and other assets that remain stranded in Ukraine and Russia as a result of the war.
  • We have worked with clients to develop bespoke claims management structures to deal with the exposures and volume claims that have arisen after major incidents, such as casualties, major loss and natural disasters, including the 2023 Turkey-Syria earthquake.
  • We have designed and managed bidder platforms to structure invitations to tender and distressed asset sales, especially following major loss incidents and in hostile environments. In February 2023, we choregraphed the distressed sale of 16 stranded vessels which became a total loss in a war zone, arising from the Ukraine/Russia war.
  • We are regularly called upon to pursue urgent Court applications such as preventative injunctions, freezing injunctions, production orders, anti-suit injunctions and other protective measures. In a recently reported London High Court anti-suit injunction case arising from a US$ 40 million precious metal fraud, we forced our opponents back to London and then defeated their substantive claim.
  • We co-founded the Hostage Support Partnership, a pro bono humanitarian organisation that works worldwide to free hostages, particularly those who do not have access to the means or resources to secure their release.
  • The Complex Environments team is headed by Richard Neylon who has led the team to win various international awards and accolades from prominent organisations, including commendation and recognition by the United Nations Security Council for pro bono work securing the release of "forgotten hostages" (see Richard Neylon's profile for more details).

The Complex Environments team's cases frequently overlap with HFW's criminal, regulatory, security and sanctions specialisms and the team works closely with the firm's  Fraud and Insolvency, Global Investigations & Enforcement,Data Protection and Cyber Security teams.

Contact Us

See all Complex Environments contacts

Related Publications

Download Brochure

Talk to us

Previous Contact
Next Contact

Latest News

Click here to visit our dedicated hub

Click here