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Wake Up Call: Contract Review Lawyers Still Onsite, Slam Risky Conditions

March 20, 2020, 12:33 PM

In today’s column, Orrick poached a four-partner energy team in London; a tech company in-house leader co-founded a law firm that advises on legal risks of artificial intelligence; Above The Law co-founder David Lat talked from his hospital bed about his Covid-19 infection; and the lawyer known as “patient zero” in a New York suburb hard hit by the virus seems to be recovering.

  • Leading off, although dozens of Big Law firms are shifting to remote work to protect their attorneys and employees against spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19, contract review attorneys, who typically work for outsourcing companies, say they’re being forced to work onsite in “tightly packed sardine” conditions conducive to spreading the disease. Says one, “Despite the ability to securely and efficiently perform document review online, many legal staffing agencies are refusing to allow employees to work remotely.” (AboveTheLaw.com)

  • With recent data showing the Covid-19 pandemic has infected 239,000, killing over 10,000 people worldwide, California’s governor issued a state-wide stay-at-home order and Pennsylvania’s governor mandated that its lockdown applies to all law firms and other legal services. (LegalIntelligencer.com)

  • Legal recruiter David Lat, who was a founder of legal blog Above The Law, announced earlier this week on Twitter that he tested positive for Covid-19. From his bed in “total isolation” in a Manhattan hospital, he said he’s on oxygen, can barely walk to the bathroom, and doesn’t know his prognosis. (New York Law Journal)

  • The lawyer known as “patient zero” in the spread of Covid-19 in the New York City suburb New Rochelle is awake and seems to be improving, his wife said. (NewYorkUpstate.com)

  • The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York said its longtime board member Richard E. Weber died due to complications linked to Covid-19. Weber was a litigation partner at Gallo Vitucci Klar. (BLAW)

  • Big Law firms’ lateral hires haven’t come to a screeching halt because of the pandemic, legal recruiters say. But the 2008-2009 Great Recession’s impact suggests the pandemic’s economic fallout will eventually hit the lateral market. (American Lawyer)

  • In some recent moves by courts nationwide to respond to the outbreak, the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday announced it’s relaxing certain filing deadlines for new appeals. In Delaware, one of the country’s busiest federal bankruptcy courts said it will be using Skype videoconferencing and CourtCall audio software to keep business going as physical sessions are cut back. (BLAW)

  • Lawyers from Latham & Watkins and Linklaters warned that U.K. financial regulators are likely to delay authorizations for financial services businesses and individuals, as well as some investigations, because of the pandemic. (Financial Times)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • After a slow start Katten Muchin Rosenman finished 2019 with $669.7 million in gross revenues, a 5.5% gain from 2018, powered by its corporate M&A and private equity practices. With nine fewer equity partners, the Chicago-based firm’s average profits per equity partner surged 10.2% to $1.85 billion. (American Lawyer)

  • A top in-house lawyer for a company offering technology for automated data governance and privacy control, Andrew Burt, has co-founded BNH.AI. a law firm that advises companies on technical and legal risks of using artificial intelligence. Burt, who’s keeping his job as CLO at Immuta, said he and his co-founder, data scientist Patrick Hall, decided to base BNH.AI. in Washington, D.C. because it is still the only U.S. jurisdiction that allows nonattorneys to partially own a law firm. (Venture Beat) (Corporate Counsel)

  • Prosecutors and defense attorneys throughout the U.S. are asking police and judges to release inmates, drop charges, and reduce jail populations vulnerable to Covid-19. (WaPo)

  • U.K. criminal defense law firms say they could have trouble paying salaries within three months because of Covid-19’s disruption to jury trials, a major source of their income. (Financial Times)

  • Proskauer advised British Telecommunications plc on its recent sale of selected domestic operations and infrastructure in 16 countries in Latin America to CIH Telecommunications Americas LLC , an affiliate of CIH Technology Holdings. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. (Proskauer) (Telecompaper.com)

  • DLA Piper representedspace systems company Rocket Lab on its acquisition of Toronto-based Sinclair Interplanetary, a developer of spacecraft hardware. (SpaceNews.com)

Pro Bono

  • Evidence presented by attorneys from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and the North California Innocence Project convinced the California Superior to vacate the murder conviction of Jeremy Puckett. He was released from prison after 18 years. (SimpsonThacher.com) (NCIP.org)

Laterals, Moves, Promotions

  • Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe poached a four-partner energy team from Watson Farley & Williams in London, including energy and infrastructure lawyers partners Evan Stergoulis, Simon Alsey, and Ravinder Sandhu, and real estate lawyer Simon Folley. The team is expected to join Orrick April 1, and Stergoulis will serve as the firm’s global head for renewables, it said. (Orrick.com)

  • Holland & Knight’s Dallas office added tax attorney Denise Mudigere as a partner in the firm’s tax controversy and litigation team. She was most recently at McDermott Will & Emery and before that at Dentons. (HKlaw.com)

  • Faegre Drinker added veteran FDA regulatory attorney Ted Lis in Washington as counsel. Before attending law school at Georgetown University, he spent nine years as a chemical engineer at Dupont. He arrives most recently from Sidley Austin. (FaegreDrinker.com)

In-house

  • Integra Inc., a Denver-based provider of enterprise blockchain services to Big Law firms and their clients, hired former Thompson & Knight corporate partner Jamey Seely as its new president and general counsel. Seely has spent nearly three years as general counsel at Gates Industrial Corp. plc. (BLAW)

Technology

  • Lawyers suddenly working from home because of Covid-19 are dealing with various technical SNAFUs of remote work. (Legaltech News)

  • From video conferencing to collaborative word-processing tools, this article takes a look at essential tools for virtual offices. (ABAJournal.com)

Legal Education

  • As all 198 American Bar Association-accredited law schools have shifted to remote instruction or plan to do that, many legal educators are trying to find ways to ease students’ anxiety and isolation. (Law.com)

  • Lawyers who have law degrees from foreign countries and want to practice in the United States should consider going for a two-year J.D. degree in the U.S., rather than a one-year LL.M Masters of Laws degree, this article suggests. (U.S. 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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