Counsel Who Care: How Attys Are Helping During A Crisis

By Xiumei Dong
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Law360 (June 16, 2020, 12:29 PM EDT) -- As coronavirus cases have spread, 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.

San Diego Attorneys Team Up to Help Litigants

San Diego lawyers have joined forces to create RESOLVE Law San Diego, a pro bono program in San Diego County aimed at addressing the backlog of cases arising out of the coronavirus pandemic.

The program centers around San Diego Superior Court. It is closed for all civil matters, creating a backlog of more than 8,000 missed hearings, dozens of trials, and an inability to move cases forward, the group said in a press release.

According to RESOLVE Law San Diego Chair Amy Martel, a partner with Chihak & Martel, the program will allow litigants to connect with a retired judge or a qualified local attorney who will agree to hear matters free of charge.

Martel is leading the program, along with 14 other attorneys from firms, including Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP, Klinedinst PC, Bunn Law Group PC and more.

So far, more than 220 lawyers and retired judges signed up to volunteer their time. The program will last for 120 days.

Mintz Provides Employment Pro Bono Services to Small Businesses

Lawyers in the Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC's employment, labor & benefits practice, partnering with legal services organizations, launched a pro bono initiative to provide employment law services to income small businesses and nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the initiative, Mintz's employment lawyers will work with legal services organizations in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and San Diego to help businesses in these communities comply with state and local employment laws and requirements.

"Businesses and workers across the United States continue to face a number of employment challenges as a result of the pandemic. It's rewarding to offer our help to those in need as they navigate this evolving employment landscape," Michael Arnold, chair of Mintz's employment, labor and benefits practice, said in a statement.

He is calling for 100% participation from lawyers in the practice group.

Akin Gump Offers Free Life Planning Documents for Health Care Workers

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP has partnered with Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project to help prepare life planning documents, such as wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney, and parental designation forms for all members of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union.

The group is calling it the VLP COVID-19 Frontline Workers Initiative and it's free of charge. Attorneys from VLP and Akin Gump will be providing legal assistance using video conferencing to meet with the health care workers remotely and also provide interpretation services for people who don't speak English.

The initiative further includes pro bono services in probate matters, should a 1199SEIU member pass away with or without a will, the firm said. Volunteer legal assistance will be provided to families with member estates of $50,000 or less.

Upon intake, VLP staff and volunteers will also offer free services on members' other legal needs, including consumer debt assistance, bankruptcy, foreclosure, custody, visitation, guardianship and uncontested divorces.

Hogan Lovells Helps Nets Owner Donate Ventilators to Hospitals

Hogan Lovells represented the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation in meeting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's requirements to import ventilators and personal protective equipment and then donate them across New York, New Jersey, California and Michigan.

According to the firm, the foundation donated thousands of ventilators and millions of units of PPE, including surgical masks, goggles, face shields, and gloves to hospital systems in those states.

Hogan Lovells attorneys have worked with local nonprofits to coordinate the donation and distribution of the shipments. The team is led by Denver-based partner Jodi Scott, who is a member of the medical device and technology regulatory practice. Others on the project included international trade and investment partner Chandri Navarro, corporate partner Matthew Eisler, and associate Wil Henderson and law clerk Sandra McCarthy.

Arnold & Porter Works to Assist Restaurant Workers

Arnold & Porter has teamed up with the James Beard Foundation, a New York City-based nonprofit that celebrates chefs and food culture, to help restaurant workers and owners who have lost jobs or had hours reduced following business closures in the wake of COVID-19.

According to the firm, more than 70 attorneys in cities including Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver, have joined the pro bono effort.

The firm's attorneys are assisting the individuals with unemployment benefits; Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act relief; food stamps; the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program; and other federal and state public benefits programs. Meanwhile, a team of transactional lawyers is working with small business restaurant owners, counseling them on economic recovery efforts.

The firm has also launched an additional pro bono program to pair individual restaurant owners with transactional lawyers, who will provide business counseling with regards to CARES Act loans.

--Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.

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