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Harvard, Duke, Other Schools Turn to Big Law in Virus Lawsuits

July 17, 2020, 12:51 PM

Big Law is rushing to the defense of colleges and universities hit with lawsuits related to the coronavirus pandemic, and also striving to help those schools comply with fast-changing rules designed to protect the health of students and employees.

Big Suits: A laundry list of famed firms including Quinn Emanuel, Holland & Kight, Bryan Cave, and Jones Day, have been tapped to defend universities from Covid-19 related suits. According one tracker, 183 of such cases have been filed so far against schools in state and federal courts, and the barrage is unlikely to end soon.

Higher Workload: “The pandemic has accelerated the volume and frequency of our work,” said Paul Lannon, co-chair of Holland & Knight’s higher education practice. “Our work is exploding around Covid issues, which affects so many aspects of campus life.” Elizabeth Olson has the story.

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Law Firms

Leading Questions: Sanford Heisler’s Gilbert Gets Creative
Felicia Gilbert is the managing partner of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s San Francisco office. She joined the firm in 2016 and represents employees in individual and class actions involving race, gender, and pregnancy discrimination. Since coming to Sanford Heisler Sharp, she’s had responsibility for individual pre-suit settlements totaling around $8 million.

After Supreme Court Win, Jenner Hires Native American Law Team
The co-chair of new practice group at Jenner & Block thinks the pair can “take Indian law to the next level.”

Washington NFL Team Hires Wilkinson Walsh to Review Harassment Claims
The Washington football team hired D.C. lawyer Beth Wilkinson—who also represented Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his contentious confirmation—and her firm, Wilkinson Walsh, to review allegations of misconduct after 15 female ex-employees told the Washington Post they were sexually harassed.

Jones Day Avoids Fact That Press Release Malicious, Couple Says
A Jones Day court filing “scrupulously avoids quoting” the knowingly false and harmful statements in a “malicious” press release it issued after being sued for parental leave and other sex discrimination, and the firm should face an additional claim for its post-suit retaliation, the married couple who filed the suit told a D.C. federal court.

Quarles & Brady Taps In-House Vet Boggs to Lead Diversity Work
Former Dow Corning legal chief Cornell Boggs will be joining Quarles & Brady as a senior strategic advisor, where he is set to play an integral role in leading the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Business of Law

Weil, Sidley, Simpson Advise in $1.5B Rare Earth Production Deal
Weil Gotshal & Manges is advising a company backed by Fortress Investment Group on a $1.5 billion-plus deal aimed at creating a large-scale U.S. rare earth producer and processor, the firm said.

Allen & Overy Revenue Rises, Profit Dips in Year Through April
Allen & Overy’s revenue rose and its profit dipped in the financial year running through April, which saw the U.K.-based firm end merger discussions with O’Melveny & Myers while its investments in alternative legal services boosted revenue.


Hip-Hop Trio Migos Says Attorney’s Self Dealing Cost It Millions
Members of the hip-hop trio Migos have sued entertainment attorney Damien Granderson in a California state court, saying their former counsel negotiated self-interested deals that cost the group millions in record sales.

Law Firm Drops Trade-Name Ban Suit in New York
A lawsuit alleging New York’s ban on the use of trade names in law firm names violates the First Amendment has been dropped by Law HQ and its founder, Thomas Alvord.

Also In the News

New York Bar Exam Cancelled Over Covid-19 Concerns
The New York Board of Law Examiners has cancelled the state’s September bar exam as a result of ongoing concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Follow Bloomberg Law’s global coverage of the coronavirus pandemic on our Coronavirus Outbreak channel, and track the latest changes in the federal court operations with our interactive map.


Revenues Steady, Profits Down at Two Elite U.K. Firms
In today’s column, California delayed its online bar exam, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt legal education; two former Big Law IP partners who recently started a virtual firm predict the Covid crisis will lead to more “Giglaw” firms like theirs; Attorney General Barr appointed an interim U.S. attorney for Alabama’s Northern District; in a Covid-inspired move, Shearman poached a Weil restructuring partner in London; an EU top court ruling threatens to disrupt transatlantic data transfers by internet giants and other multinationals.


ANALYSIS: Lawyers Agree! Consensus Around Contract Risks
Every deal lawyer knows which clauses are most important when working through a transaction: their own. But, according to Bloomberg Law’s Commercial Deal Insights Survey 2020, no one is really that special. We sliced the results by in-house vs. firm lawyer, by subject matter expertise, and over a broad range of contract types. Across the community of deal lawyers, the same four clause types were always on the table: indemnification; business terms; limitations of liability/damages; and representations & warranties/covenants.

ANALYSIS: Antitrust Cases Are on an Upswing Over 2019
Practitioners concerned that the Covid-19 crisis may have impacted antitrust litigation can rest easy: More federal antitrust cases were filed during the first half of 2020 than in the same period in 2019.


INSIGHT: A Center for Racial Justice at Dillard, Where Black Lives Have Always Mattered
Dillard University, a historically Black college in New Orleans, is unveiling a new Center for Racial Justice this month. Kirkland & Ellis partner Michael D. Jones writes about his support for the center, the influences of his friend and colleague Johnny Cochran, and the need to start wholesale rethinking and reconstruction of systems perpetuating racial injustice.

INSIGHT: Remdesivir and the Role of Patents in Tackling Covid-19
Gilead Sciences’ Remdesivir can treat Covid-19, and some have claimed the company’s patent is limiting access to the drug. Potter Clarkson‘s Stephanie Pilkington disagrees with claims IP rights put up barriers and instead argues they provide a framework for avoiding and preventing abuse while maintaining long-term incentive for innovators.

INSIGHT: Bankruptcy for States? Yes, But Don’t Forget the Constitution
With Covid-19 causing states to face rising expenditures and growing shortfalls in tax revenues, some policymakers and pundits have suggested making federal bankruptcy laws available to state governments. Susheel Kirpalani, partner at Quinn Emanuel, says Congress should act with precision and not haste, or it will increase the cost of borrowing in all 50 states and destabilize the multitrillion-dollar municipal bond market.

INSIGHT: Implications of Covid-19 for Catastrophe Bond Litigation
Catastrophe bonds, used by those with insurance or reinsurance obligations to sell some of their exposure to losses from cataclysmic events, are increasingly likely to hit their triggers for payouts as the Covid-19 pandemic continues. Patterson Belknap attorneys examine issues that could cause investors to lose principal, potential sources of future disputes and litigation, and steps to mitigate risks.

INSIGHT: High Court Pipeline Ruling Positive Headwind to Industry
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling reinstating the streamlined permitting process for pipelines is a positive for the pipeline industry, but left some unanswered questions. Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr attorneys analyze the decision’s broader implications, including the financial impact to the industry from companies deciding to forgo reliance on general permitting and absorb the costs of applying for individual permits.

INSIGHT: Trump’s Unitary Executive Theory Meets Cyrus Vance on Fifth Avenue
The U.S. Supreme Court sent a powerful message to President Trump that no president is above the law in its 7-2 ruling in Vance, say Claire O. Finkelstein, University of Pennsylvania law professor, and Richard W. Painter, professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and former chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. They say generally applicable laws apply to the president as they do to everyone else, and nothing in Article II overrides that.


Mintz grabbed a team of insurance and reinsurance lawyers from Squire Patton Boggs; members Deirdre G. Johnson, Paul W. Kalish, Ellen MacDonald Farrell, and special counsel Elaine Panagakos join in Washington, and Suman Chakraborty joins as a member in New York | Baker Donelson has added Melodie Hengerer as of counsel to the Baker Ober Health Law Group in Baltimore | Gordon Rees hired Allison Becker as partner in the Health Care, Professional Liability Defense, Commercial Litigation, Bankruptcy, Restructuring & Creditors’ Rights, and Appellate practice groups in Raleigh | Armstrong Teasdale added Senior Counsel Renee M. Reuter to the Intellectual Property practice group in St. Louis | Nexsen Pruet has hired Ray Stevens, former Director of the South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR), to the State and Local Taxation (SALT) team in Columbia, SC.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Jerome Ashton in Washington at