Earlier this week, Americans received a rather stark warning from federal health officials about the inevitable spread of coronavirus in the U.S. “[T]his could be bad,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a press briefing. “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen.”
Biglaw firms across the country are taking the news seriously, echoing the actions of their colleagues abroad and imposing travel restrictions and canceling events.
According to the American Lawyer, the following firms have either postponed or outright canceled their partner meetings and retreats:
- Orrick – the firm’s partnership retreat in San Antonio, Texas, has reportedly been rescheduled over coronavirus concerns
- Norton Rose – partners from certain locations (e.g., China) were not permitted to travel to the firm’s partners meeting in Austin, Texas, due to coronavirus fears
- Duane Morris – the firm’s Asia partners meeting has been canceled, but a firmwide meeting is still planned to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, next month
- Baker Botts – partners from Asian offices will not be permitted to attend the firm’s partner conference in Scottsdale, Arizona
Other firms are prohibiting and limiting travel to and within countries that have been stricken by coronavirus outbreaks:
- Baker Botts – the firm is not permitting any employees to travel to mainland China and will limit travel to Hong Kong to trips made for “essential business purposes” only, and such trips must be approved by management
- Paul Weiss – the firm will not allow any “non-essential” business trips to and from Mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and Italy, and anyone who has traveled to or from those countries (or who was in close contact with someone traveling to or from them) must work from home for at least 14 days after traveling and may return to the office only if they are symptom-free
Work travel and meeting attendance come second when your health could be at stake.
“This is not something we came up with on our own. This is the advice we are giving to clients,” [Michael] Delikat, [an employment partner at Orrick,] said. “The focus has shifted to preventing transmission.”
He said clients, similarly, are canceling management retreats, banning all travel and rethinking other large gatherings of employees, except for mission-critical travel. Companies are no longer just limiting travel to China, he said, mentioning the possibility of employees, during a work trip, possibly coming in contact with travelers who may have been exposed to coronavirus in a number of countries.
What is your firm doing to protect its employees from potential exposure to coronavirus? Please email us or text us (646-820-8477). Stay safe, everyone.
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.