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Wake Up Call: Law Firms Grapple With States’ New Stay-At-Home Rules

March 23, 2020, 12:21 PM

In today’s column, Above The Law co-founder David Lat, infected with Covid-19, is on a ventilator as his condition deteriorated to critical; a U.K. law firm warned its lawyers working at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic to be wary of connected listening devices, such as Alexa; law firms expect the pandemic to hit deals and billable hours, and some have asked banks for credit extensions; American Lawyer released its latest dealmakers of the year list.

  • Leading off, Big Law firms are working to figure out how their operations are affected by different stay-at-home orders issued last week by California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and some local governments, to respond to the pandemic of novel coronavirus Covid-19. Most firms have implemented remote work schemes for lawyers and staff, but the question is whether the new rules let firms keep “skeleton crews” to maintain their offices’ basic business functions. California’s shelter-in-place order does allow them, but elsewhere it’s less clear. (American Lawyer)

  • Illinois’ stay-at-home order specifically designates “legal services” as an essential business, but rules imposed by some Illinois municipalities are less clear. (American Lawyer) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “100% workforce reduction” order doesn’t specifically list law firms as “essential” services. (New York Law Journal)

  • In Pennsylvania, the governor mandated last week that the state’s lockdown applies to all law firms and other legal services. But new court administrative guidance says law firms can stay open on a restricted basis to perform functions that courts have deemed to be “essential.” (Legal Intelligencer)

  • Meanwhile, as lawyers confront life in the time of Covid-19, white collar lawyers are confronting a “new normal.” (National Law Journal) Bloomberg Law interviewed attorneys in different practice areas, from New York City to Seattle, to see how Covid-19 is affecting them and how they are responding. Video. (BLAW)

  • Law firm Mishcon de Reya warned its staff working remotely at home to make sure that connected tools such as Amazon.com’s Alexa and Google’s voice assistant are not listening to their calls with clients. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • Kilpatrick Townsend’s coronavirus task force and resource page includes, among other things, posts with recommendations for how franchisors should be communicating with franchisees during the outbreak. (KilpatrickTownsend.com) Norton Rose Fulbright has a post on what Canadian employers need to know about temporary layoffs. (NortonRoseFulbright.com)

  • Here’s an interactive map showing how federal courts are responding to the virus, such as by limiting public access and opting for teleconferences. (BLAW) Phone-in arguments didn’t go so well on their first tries last week. For instance, in one, the judge was briefly locked out of the call. (National Law Journal) The Covid-19 pandemic has completely disrupted the criminal justice system. (NYT) The U.S. Supreme Court said all its justices are healthy, but they won’t be shaking hands anytime soon. (BLAW)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • During the weekend, Above The Law co-founder David Lat was put on a ventilator in a Manhattan hospital after his condition deteriorated. (New York Law Journal)

  • Some firms said they expect the pandemic’s impact to cause a drop in their billable hours, while others expect a decline in their M&A practices. Some are asking their banks for more credit, while some are laying off staff. (American Lawyer)

  • American Lawyer named its dealmakers of the year for 2020 today. (American Lawyer)

  • Goldman Sachs paid its new top lawyer, Karen Seymour, $8.37 million in 2019. (BLAW)

  • Valero Energy Corp.'s top lawyer Jason Fraser, who after two decades at the company got promoted to general counsel early in 2019, earned $5.5 million in total compensation in his first year in that role, according to a report. (Corporate Counsel)

  • A Lowenstein Sandler partner and eight family members have been stranded in Guatemala because of the U.S. Covid-19 travel shutdown. (American Lawyer)

  • Clifford Chance’s internal report for Swedbank shows that over five years the Swedish bank did $37 billion in transactions at high risk of money laundering, and some of that business may have violated U.S. sanctions. (Financial Times)

  • Crowell & Moring advised Alto Pharmacy in a partnership with Carbon Health to provide what Crowell called the first home test kits for Covid-19. (BioSpace) (Crowell.com)

  • American immigration lawyers, federal immigration judges and prosecutors issued a joint statement criticizing a new federal rule requiring lawyers to bring their own protective medical gear during visits to clients inside detention centers. (Miami Herald)

  • The New Jersey Supreme Court gave a one-year suspension to a lawyer who raised the grades on his law school transcript when he applied for a job with Williams & Connolly. (ABAJournal.com)

Laterals, Moves

  • DLA Piper got Skadden Arps litigator Ronald N. Brown as a partner in Wilmington, Delaware. (DLAPiper.com)

In-house

  • New lawyers are moving into top in-house roles at Bowling Green State University, Louisiana State University, Michigan State University, and Wichita State University. (BLAW)

Technology

  • Legal tech vendors and alternative legal service providers say they are keeping new product releases on schedule, even as volatile markets and other disruptions caused by the pandemic force changes in how their law firm and corporate clients operate. (BLAW)

Legal Education

  • The American Bar Association announced new continuing legal education webinars with guidance on helping clients deal with legal issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic and said it will be adding more in the coming weeks. (AmericanBar.org)

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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