Baker McKenzie Reopens London Office After Virus Scare

By Michele Gorman
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Law360 (March 2, 2020, 6:11 PM EST) -- Baker McKenzie resumed normal operations in London on Monday, after an employee tested negative for the COVID-19 virus. The BigLaw firm had temporarily closed down the office Friday amid concerns related to the spread of the disease, commonly known as the coronavirus.

"We're delighted to confirm that our employee has tested negative for the COVID-19 virus and our London office has reopened today," a Baker McKenzie spokesperson told Law360 in a statement. "Our priority is the health and well-being of our people and our clients, and we took these preemptive measures out of an abundance of caution."

Baker McKenzie and other firms have taken the threat of the virus seriously, with many enacting precautionary measures, including restricting travel, encouraging employees to work from home and even canceling global partnership meetings.

Squire Patton Boggs LLP Chairman and Global CEO Mark Ruehlmann on Monday told Law360 that the firm canceled a leadership meeting set for the spring in Singapore amid the virus scare. And last week, Latham & Watkins LLP called off its global partnership meeting scheduled for this week in New York and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP scrapped an upcoming meeting of hundreds of global partners in San Antonio.

Other BigLaw firms have requested that employees in affected areas work from home, and many have restricted travel, including Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP and Reed Smith LLP.

The virus, which originated in the Hubei province of China, has affected 58 countries and resulted in about 3,000 deaths so far, according to the World Health Organization. Of the more than 88,900 cases reported around the world, 90% are mostly in one province in China.

While China on Sunday reported 206 cases of the virus — the lowest number since Jan. 22 — the disease is spreading outside of the country, according to WHO. The outbreaks in Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea are the WHO's "greatest concern," the organization's Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing Monday.

In the U.S., six people have died from the virus, according to health officials' tally as of Monday evening.

Baker McKenzie's office closure last week came as firms with offices in Milan asked employees to work from home and avoid public transit, as the number of coronavirus cases there spiked Thursday. Other firms barred nonessential travel to affected global hubs in Europe and Asia, a sign that international firms are battening down the hatches.

--Additional reporting by Emma Cueto and Jack Queen. Editing by Alanna Weissman.

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