BigLaw firm asks all employees to work remotely following death of legal assistant with flu-like symptoms

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Lisa Carney headshot

Lisa Carney. Photo courtesy of Davis Wright Tremaine.

Updated: A Davis Wright Tremaine staff member, who worked out of the firm’s office in Bellevue, Washington, was found dead Thursday after she’d left work Tuesday morning, experiencing flu-like symptoms.

The cause of death for executive legal assistant Lisa Carney, 60, was not confirmed. But the firm is closing its Bellevue and Seattle offices in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a March 13 statement from Davis Wright Tremaine managing partner Jeff Gray. People working in the Bellevue office have been asked to self-quarantine, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, Davis Wright Tremaine learned Thursday that someone in the building where its Portland, Oregon, office is located, who does not work for the firm, tested positive for COVID-19. That led to a closure of the Portland office, as well, which was being “deep cleaned” Friday, according to the statement.

People based in those three offices are working remotely, and employees at the firm’s other offices have been instructed to telecommute when possible starting March 16.

“This is a profoundly sad and very anxious time. Davis Wright Tremaine is more than a workplace—it’s a community. We are mourning the loss of one of our own and will lean on each other to get through this trying time together. While it is extremely difficult, we remain focused on protecting each other and maintaining the highest level of client service and continuity of firm operation,” Gray said in the statement.

On Monday, the firm received confirmation from Washington state health authorities that Carney tested negative for COVID-19, and that her death was due to an unrelated health condition.

“We continue to ask all attorneys and staff to work remotely across all firm offices, including Seattle, Portland and Bellevue, for the foreseeable future,” Gray said in his Monday statement. “We’re all still grieving this loss to our community and are making arrangements to celebrate Lisa’s life and service to the firm. We’re grateful for our firm’s continued commitment to each other and our clients and for the outpouring of support from the entire legal community over the past few days.”

Updated on March 16 to report that Carney had tested negative for COVID-19.

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