Law firms in Italy are adopting contingency measures such as shutting down meeting rooms and monitoring staff travel as the coronavirus outbreak reaches new levels in Europe.
Leading Italian firm BonelliErede, Slaughter and May’s ally in the region, is paying for employees to take taxis to the office while encouraging staff not to take public transport.
“The main guideline is for people to stay at home if they want to, but if there are reasons they have to come in, they can”, said one partner.
The Milan-headquartered firm is also encouraging lawyers not to travel outside of Italy and rearrange meetings or take them as calls instead.
“There is no news of firms shutting down yet, but it would be absolutely disproportionate to what is going on”, the partner added. “If you go around in Milan today, it is not a dead city. Of course people are scared, but I think they’re more scared because of the press coverage”.
U.K. firm Bird & Bird, which has Italian bases in Rome and Milan, said that while the Rome office continues normal operations for the time being, staff in Milan are invited to do remote/smart working.
“Meetings at our Milan office are highly discouraged and meeting rooms are closed”, said one partner, adding that “travels from and to our office in Milan are restricted”.
Chiomenti’s offices in Milan and Rome remain open but the firm is also discouraging travel and meetings in person “unless strictly necessary”. It is “applying all the measures suggested by the health authorities”, while preparing to adapt in case any new instructions are given, according to a partner at the firm.
A spokesperson for Hogan Lovells said: “Our office in Milan remains open, however our people have the option to work remotely whilst this phase unfolds.”
Coronavirus has raised alarm bells globally, with a number of international law firms with bases across Greater China and Hong Kong adopting similar measures.
The regions of Lombardy, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Piemonte and Emilia Romagna have implemented measures in response to the outbreak, according to the U.K.’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, while 10 small towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto are isolated. Milan is the closest city to the outbreak.
A large number of law firms have operations in Milan, the country’s economic hub. The Duomo of Milan is closed to tourists until at least February 25, according to an announcement on its website.
Italy has also suspended Serie A football games, as well as schools and businesses closing in the regions.
With reporting by Meganne Tillay.