Reed Smith Makes Remote Work Mandatory Over Coronavirus

By Emma Cueto
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Law360 (March 13, 2020, 6:00 PM EDT) -- All but a handful of Reed Smith LLP employees at the firm's American, European and Middle Eastern offices began working remotely Friday in an effort to protect employees and clients and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Reed Smith, which has 18 offices in the U.S. and eight across Europe and the Middle East, said all offices will have a small team of "essential employees" on hand to help out with "key business needs" that require someone on site, but all others will work remotely on an indefinite basis.

"The firm's well-tested and robust remote working capabilities are such that we can continue to deliver client service as we accommodate this necessity," a firm spokesperson told Law360 in an email. "Many of our people are always working remotely, and our system is already built for this."

The firm also said it will be monitoring the coronavirus situation and updating its position accordingly.

Also on Friday, U.K. firm Taylor Wessing announced that one of its London partners had tested positive for the virus and the firm would be shutting down its London office until Wednesday, though the firm also said the date for reopening was under "continuing review."

The London partner with coronavirus has a moderate case and has been self-isolating at home, according to the firm.

London employees will work remotely until the office reopens, the firm said.

"Since initial announcements on COVID-19 were made in the last few months, we have been closely monitoring developments and working with various health organizations and regulatory bodies," Taylor Wessing said in a statement. "The safety, health and well-being of our people and our clients is of primary importance and we have been implementing additional measures across our business in line with their guidance."

The novel coronavirus began in Wuhan, China, in December and has since spread to 123 countries, according to the World Health Organization, which declared the virus to be a global pandemic on March 11. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has confirmed 1,600 cases in the United States as of Friday, though questions remain about the rate of testing for the virus.

The outbreak has caused economic upheaval and prompted many law firms around the world to take measures to protect employees from the spread. Many have imposed travel restrictions, while others have canceled events.

Some have also closed offices temporarily. Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP earlier this week temporarily closed down all of its offices after learning that someone who had been present in one of its D.C. locations later tested positive for COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Faegre Drinker resumed normal business operations in all of its outposts save for its two offices in D.C.

And Baker McKenzie on Feb. 28 shut down its office in London for a business day over concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus.

Elsewhere in the legal industry, COVID-19 has led Columbia Law School, Fordham University School of Law and other schools to suspend classes, and legal gatherings including the Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference have also either been postponed or canceled.

--Additional reporting by Michele Gorman. Editing by Janice Carter Brown.

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