New York City Law Firms OK'd To Reopen Offices Monday

By Mike LaSusa
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Law360 (June 19, 2020, 7:04 PM EDT) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that law firms in New York City are officially allowed to open their offices — with restrictions — starting Monday, leading the state's bar association president to remark that attorneys are "chomping at the bit" to get back.

New York state public health experts have reviewed recent coronavirus-related data and concluded that it is safe to allow New York City to enter a second phase of the reopening process — which includes the reopening of office spaces, including law firms — Cuomo said at what was billed as his last daily COVID-19 briefing.

At the same time, the governor pointed out that the pandemic isn't over and health experts have warned of a second wave of infections.

"We have to monitor the local infection rate," the governor said. "Local governments must ensure compliance [with safety measures]."

The governor's office has released guidance indicating that office workers should maintain physical distance from each other and use protective equipment like masks, while businesses are required to provide cleaning services and health information to employees.

New York State Bar Association President Scott Karson told Law360 on Friday that attorneys he's spoken with are "chomping at the bit" to get back in the office.

"This has been a long haul," Karson said. "They're ready to go back, even if it means following some significant restrictions in what they can and cannot do."

The NYSBA put out law firm-specific reopening recommendations last month, which suggested attorneys and staff should bring their own food; sanitizer should be readily accessible; and reasonable restrictions should be placed on the use of common areas such as bathrooms, copiers and refrigerators, among other things.

Courts in New York City have also started to get up and running again. Officials said this week that federal grand juries are meeting in person once again, grinding out a wave of new indictments in the past two weeks after a nearly three-month hiatus and despite continuing COVID-19 concerns.

State courthouses in central New York, including in Binghamton, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica, reopened earlier this week for in-person business including arraignments and sentencings.

Law360 is tracking court closures and restrictions across the country here.

--Additional reporting by Kevin Penton, Frank G. Runyeon and Pete Brush. Editing by Daniel King.

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