International expansion by the UK's top 100 law firms is being rethought due to the volatility present in international markets new research has shown.

Economic sanctions, tumbling oil prices and international conflict have all played their own part in shaking the global economy over the recent past.

New research from Thomson Reuters Legal has found that only a quarter of finance directors (FDs) at 26 of the UK's top firms said it was likely they would look to expand to improve profitability, compared to a third who did in 2014.

Interest in expansion to Russia saw one of the sharpest falls with just 12% of FDs considering moves there, this is in stark contrast to the 48% who expressed an interest last year.

Expansion interest in Sub Saharan Africa was also found to have virtually disappeared as a result of damage caused by a downturn in oil and metal prices.

Emerging markets were the biggest casualties of the research which found that many law firms were instead backing moves to more traditional investment grounds such as North America, Western Europe, and Japan, all of which gained in popularity as locations for development in the last year.

Sam Steer, head of large law segment for Thomson Reuters, remarked: 'The fall in commodity prices over the last year has, for the time being, turned many appealing emerging market growth opportunities for law firms into much less attractive prospects. However, UK law firms have grown into such profitable enterprises partly because of their willingness to make long term investments in overseas expansion.

'Whilst law firms are currently going through a "risk off" period in terms of overseas expansions that may change as commodity prices stabilise.'

Meanwhile, the research found that China is still the most attractive destination for international expansion and remains a strategically vital market for many law firms. 80% of FDs say that firms will be expanding there.