Counsel Who Care: How Attys Are Helping During Virus Crisis

By Xiumei Dong
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Law360 (April 7, 2020, 8:48 PM EDT) -- As coronavirus cases have spiked, law firms across the nation have been stepping up to help, from providing pro bono legal assistance to fundraisers and donations. Here, Law360 rounds up some of the latest charity efforts from the legal community in response to the pandemic.

Hogan Lovells Helps NFL's Patriots With Mask Donation

Hogan Lovells helped the Kraft Group and the NFL's New England Patriots secure the necessary government approvals so the team could use its plane to pick up 1.3 million N95 masks from Shenzhen, China, and deliver them to Massachusetts and New York.

As part of the firm's pro bono effort to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, a cross-practice team of lawyers and staff worked around the clock to get authorizations in the United States and China for the masks to be picked up from Shenzhen on April 1. The shipment arrived in Massachusetts the following day.

Patriots owner and Kraft Group CEO Robert Kraft also bought 300,000 masks to donate to New York.

"Hogan Lovells tore through the bureaucracy with their knowledge and skill around international trade and truly worked 24/7 to make sure this mission was accomplished," Kraft said in a statement.

In addition to obtaining the government authorizations for the trip, Hogan Lovells lawyers advised on matters related to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and customs to help speed the masks' arrival, the firm said.

Taft Donates Masks to Minn. Health Care Workers

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP's Minneapolis office, which merged with local firm Briggs and Morgan PA in January, has donated nearly 3,500 N95 and Isofluid respiratory masks to the Salvation Army Northern Division for distribution to health care workers.

The respiratory masks were purchased in 2009 and initially intended as a precautionary measure for staff during the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, the firm said in a press release last week. Taft's facilities director Julie Munneke and colleague Cynthia Trana immediately contacted Minneapolis-based partner Justin Weinberg about the donation opportunity upon the discovery of the masks.

"With the important role the Salvation Army Northern Division is playing in the collection and distribution of PPEs, we immediately brought the masks to their headquarters to be circulated to the Minnesota health care community," Weinberg said in a statement, referring to personal protective equipment.

Baker McKenzie Helps Consortium Launch COVID-19 Tracking App

Baker McKenzie is providing pro bono counsel to nonprofit project How We Feel, a mobile app launched by Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann, doctors and scientists to help gather data about the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

The app, which is available for free on iOS and Android, asks users to report information like age, gender, location and how they are feeling so experts can track real-time data about the virus. The data then goes to a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and other schools studying the disease.

A team of Baker McKenzie lawyers led by London-based partner Ben Allgrove and Palo Alto, California-based partner Lothar Determann is providing legal advice on data privacy, intellectual property and commercial law aspects of the app development and launch, the firm said in an announcement Monday.

Troutman Sanders Counsels Atlanta Opera on Making Mask Covers

A team of Troutman Sanders LLP lawyers has worked to help The Atlanta Opera obtain the legal documents needed to produce mask covers for area hospitals during the pandemic.

The opera intends to produce about 72,000 mask covers, using instructions and materials provided by Grady Health System, which will allow medical workers to extend the life of the critical N95 masks.

"We didn't want the opera to get in trouble for manufacturing a medical device — the covers are not medical devices. We needed to protect the opera from liability on multiple fronts," said Troutman Sanders associate Brett Tarver, who received the request on March 22.

Troutman Sanders lawyers drafted an Emergency Supplies Agreement for the opera and provided advice on FDA regulations. The team also consulted with future colleagues from Pepper Hamilton LLP, which will merge with Troutman Sanders on July 1, on additional regulatory and liability matters as well as insurance needs.

Donations, Funds Established By Firms

Atlanta-based litigation boutique Robbins Firm launched an online fundraiser called Georgia Lawyers Care to make it easy for people to donate to Giving Kitchen, which helps Georgia restaurant workers, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Robbins is contributing at least $10,000 to each organization, the firm said.

Another Atlanta law firm, Harris Lowry Manton LLP, has donated 500 box lunches to city health care workers and first responders in the past week.

Cleveland-based civil defense litigation firm Reminger Co. LPA has created The Reminger Foundation to give $250,000 in grants to hospitals that have established recovery funds to support their frontline caregivers.

Virginia-based patent boutique Harrity & Harrity LLP has redirected its charity initiative, Harrity 4 Charity, to help those affected by the pandemic.

While the firm has not yet announced the recipients of the fund, it said in an announcement last week that the initiative will focus on helping families and individuals who have been laid off or lost their jobs and single parents or families struggling to provide for their children as a result of COVID-19.

 "As a result of the current pandemic, we have decided to pause our contributions to our partner charities and instead get our Harrity 4 Charity dollars out into the communities to help people who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus," managing partner John Harrity said in a statement.

The firm had been donating 5% of its profits to four charitable organizations: American Heart Association, Inova Children's Hospital, ZERO — The End of Prostate Cancer, and No More Stolen Childhoods, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the public perception of childhood sexual abuse.

The law firm also plans to establish restaurant-run food banks to help businesses who are suffering from a lack of customers, while providing free meals to people who cannot afford them. 
--Editing by Jill Coffey.

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