Law Firms

How BigLaw and the courts are responding to coronavirus; potential illness closes one firm's office

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Several large law firms are taking steps to reduce the threat of coronavirus to their workers, including one law firm that shut down an overseas office after a worker became ill.

The law firm—Baker McKenzie—said it shut down its London office as a precautionary measure in response to a potential case of the virus also known as COVID-19, report RollOnFriday and

Baker McKenzie says its London employees are working from home and client service isn’t affected.

The Baker McKenzie worker who became ill had traveled to northern Italy. The nation has 400 cases of coronavirus, according to BBC News. Concern over the virus has led several international law firms to close or discourage use of their Milan offices.

Dentons, meanwhile, temporarily closed its office in Wuhan, China.

Other law firms asking or encouraging some overseas employees to work from home include Shearman & Sterling; Dorsey & Whitney; and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

Law firms are taking other precautionary measures, reports here and here. They include:

• Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has reportedly canceled a Texas retreat, while Duane Morris reportedly canceled its Asia partners meeting. Several other firms are barring some overseas partners from attending U.S. meetings, including Norton Rose Fulbright and Baker Botts.

• Law firms are barring nonessential or all overseas travel to some locations, including Baker Botts; Baker McKenzie; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and Shearman & Sterling.

• Some law firms are asking lawyers to self-quarantine at home after returning from high-risk locations overseas, including Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

The federal judiciary, meanwhile, is making preparations in case of a coronavirus outbreak, Bloomberg Law reports.

The plan drawn up by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts calls for expanded use of teleworking in the event of an outbreak.

Other possible “social distancing” measures include flexible work hours, the use of teleconferencing instead of in-person meetings, and a three-foot separation between individuals, according to Bloomberg Law.

The plan also encourages the routine cleaning of workplace surfaces, hand-washing and “good respiratory etiquette.”

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