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Wake Up Call: Chinese Firms Seek Contract Exemptions Due to Virus

March 11, 2020, 1:03 PM

In today’s column, due to coronavirus worries, an annual SEC event with a law institute was canceled; Faegre Drinker’s lawyers and staff are working from home after the firm closed all its offices; and more law schools say they are switching to all-remote instruction. Also, a top U.S. intelligence lawyer who tried to keep the Ukraine whistleblower complaint from Congress last year is back at his old law firm; and Foley hired the New York Jets’ former top lawyer.

  • Leading off, as the coronavirus hits their business, a growing number of Chinese businesses are seeking “force majeure” exemptions for non-performance or non-compliance under their contracts. The economic effects of this trend are already going global, a report says. (Artificial Lawyer)

  • Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath temporarily closed all 22 of its offices yesterday after firm leaders found out that a visitor to a recent event in its Washington office had later tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officially known as covid-19. (BLAW)

  • The Practising Law Institute announced the cancellation of its annual continuing legal education program with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, The SEC Speaks in 2020, which was scheduled for March 30-31 in Washington. It said the program might be held during the summer. (PLI.edu)

  • Among its latest coronavirus-related cancellations, the American Bar Association said the spring meeting of its business law section scheduled for March 26-28 in Boston will not be held. (AmericanBar.org) The World Trade Organization suspended all meetings at its headquarters after a staff member contracted the virus. (WTO.org)

  • Harvard Law School said its classes will be given online when spring break ends March 23. Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, and other law schools in California and New York have already made the switch to remote instruction. (BLAW) It turns out that many law school faculty have never taught a course online. (Law.com)

  • As the virus spreads, some courts are closing while some are not. (Law.com)

  • The Westchester County lawyer linked to New York’s coronavirus outbreak visited a doctor several times, but a hospital took several days to diagnose his virus, his wife said. (New York Times)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • The top intelligence lawyer who tried to block the Ukraine whistleblower complaint from getting to Congress last year is back at his old law firm. Former general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Jason Klitenic, will launch a new national security, defense, and intelligence team, Holland & Knight said. Klitenic, who was previously the Homeland Security Department deputy general counsel, is a brother-in-law to FBI Director Christopher Wray. (HKLaw.com)

  • Proskauer Rose in 2019 had a lot of restructuring work in Puerto Rico, and strong growth in its London office. Early data show the New York-based firm’s gross revenues grew 2.8% compared with 2018 to top $1 billion for its first time, while its average profits per equity partner rose 3.4% to $2.75 million. (New York Law Journal)

  • South Carolina-based Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, which merged with Florida firm Broad and Cassel in 2018, posed 2019 gross revenues of $557.99 million, up 7.9% from the year before, according to preliminary data. Average PEP jumped 15%, to $1.145 million. (Daily Report)

  • Pierce Bainbridge Beck Price & Hecht founder John Pierce is on a leave of absence from the firm, amidst an internal investigation into allegations he accepted money from a lender for personal use, a report says. (American Lawyer)

Laterals, Moves

  • Veteran sports lawyer Andrew “Andy” Lee, the former general counsel of the New York Jets and the Super Bowl Host Committee for New York and New Jersey, is joining Foley & Lardner’s sports and entertainment law practice. (Foley.com)

  • Litigation funder Validity Finance hired patent trial veteran James Amend as a senior investment adviser in Chicago. Amend spent close to 40 years at Kirkland & Ellis and was a chief mediator for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and later a neutral at JAMS. The firm also added commercial and antitrust litigator Joshua Libling in New York as portfolio counsel. He arrives from Boies Schiller Flexner, where he was counsel and pro bono coordinator. (BLAW)

  • Longtime Boies Schiller Flexner partner Christopher Duffy joined Vinson & Elkins as a partner in New York. (BLAW)

  • And yet another Boies partner, litigator Douglass Mitchell, left the firm to join Jenner & Block in Washington. He’s the third Boies partner to join Jenner & Block in the last month. (BLAW)

  • Morgan, Lewis & Bockius added M&A partner Artem Tamaev to its corporate team in Moscow. He arrives from Herbert Smith Freehills. (MorganLewis.com)

  • Cooley hired the head of Covington & Burling’s capital markets and securities practice, Eric Blanchard, as a partner in its New York office. (Cooley.com)

  • Carlton Fields added litigator Ryan D. Class in Hartford as an associate and member of the firm’s mass tort and product liability practice. He was previously a judicial law clerk in Connecticut Superior Court. (CarltonFields.com)

  • Holland & Knight is also getting back litigation partner Frank Morreale, who is rejoining the firm in Jacksonville, Florida, after practicing for six years at Nelson Mullins. (HKLaw.com)

  • Buchalter added corporate lawyer Marcus Williams as a shareholder in its Los Angeles and Seattle offices. He joins after 22 years at Davis Wright Tremaine, where he was a partner and chair of the securities and corporate finance practice. (Buchalter)

  • The Charleston Group, a Fayetteville, North Carolina, law firm, said Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Steve Benjamin joined the firm as co-chair of its public finance and affordable housing practices. (TheState.com)

  • Dykema added real estate lawyer Peggy Graham in Chicago as a senior counsel. (Dykema)

In-house

  • The Center for Democracy & Technology hired the Senate Judiciary Committee’s former chief counsel for IP & antitrust, Alexandra Reeve Givens, to be its new president & CEO. Givens, most recently the founding executive director of Georgetown Law’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy, was earlier a litigator at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, in New York. She’s the daughter of the late actor Christopher Reeve. (CDT.org)

  • Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., the largest shipbuilder for the U.S. military, said its vice president of litigation and chief compliance officer, Chad Boudreaux, will become its chief legal officer on April 1. He replaces CLO Kellye Walker, who is leaving to take an executive vice president and chief legal officer role at Eastman Chemical Co. (BLAW)

  • O’Melveny & Myers worklaw associate Stephanie Grassi took a new job as top lawyer at the League of Resident Theaters. (American Theatre)

  • The leadership of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission voted to limit the agency general counsel’s authority to unilaterally decide the kinds of discrimination cases it brings against employers. (BLAW)

Technology

  • Everlaw, which provides e-discovery software and other litigation tools, said it closed a $62 million funding round, including money from the private equity fund of Google parent company Alphabet. (Legaltech News)

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at rMitchell@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Darren Bowman at dbowman@bloomberglaw.com

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