Business travel Airport travelers in China were wearing masks around the Chinese New Year as the coronavirus began to cause disruptions. (Photo: B.Zhou/Shutterstock.com)

As the coronavirus spreads, law firms and legal industry organizations have continued to announce changes and cancellations of long-planned events that would have involved domestic or international travel for many.

The American Bar Association and its Criminal Justice Section on Wednesday canceled the 34th National Institute on White Collar Crime, scheduled for next week in San Diego. The organization said it made the change because of travel restrictions placed on a significant number of speakers and attendees by their employers.

The Legal Marketing Association, meanwhile, said Wednesday that it will decide by next week if its annual conference will go on as scheduled. It is currently planned for March 25 to 27 in Denver.

“We are aware that several organizations have canceled their conferences, and some firms/companies have restricted travel. We are taking all of these data points into consideration, together with the insights and guidance from medical/health experts, and local and national government officials,” LMA officials wrote in an email statement.

The spurt of announcements comes in the wake of an increasing number of COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths in the U.S., and in other countries.

Law firms have continued to announce changes to planned meetings and retreats as well

Baker Botts has decided to hold its partners meeting remotely, instead of in person this weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona, as the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S. The partners meeting was scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

“Out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of providing the safest possible environment for our people, we have decided not to gather in person at our partner conference in Scottsdale. We will hold the meeting remotely instead,” a spokesman for the firm said in an email on Wednesday morning.

U.K.-based Linklaters also said Wednesday that it is canceling its in-person partner conference, which was scheduled to be held in Berlin at the end of April, and having a remote meeting instead.

Elsewhere in Europe, Simmons & Simmons has called off its annual partner conference, which was set to start on Thursday in Monaco. The two-day meeting was canceled because the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in Europe, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

On Tuesday, Sidley Austin announced that it had canceled its all-partners meeting scheduled for April in Florida.

Latham & Watkins canceled its global partners meeting, which had been scheduled for this week in New York. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe postponed its partner retreat, which would have taken place in San Antonio last week. Duane Morris canceled its Asia partners meeting, which was scheduled to take place within the next month. And Norton Rose Fulbright excluded lawyers from certain locations, including China, from its partner meeting in Austin last week.

Baker Botts’ announcement shows an increased eye toward precautionary measures. The firm had announced a week ago that it would move forward with its long-scheduled partner conference in Scottsdale, but as a precautionary measure, partners in Asian offices would not attend “due to transmission concerns related to air travel.” Also, the firm said that, for all personnel, travel to mainland China is prohibited, and travel to Hong Kong must be for essential business purposes and approved by management.

The firm’s Asian offices are in Beijing and Hong Kong. Baker Botts, founded in Houston, had 734 lawyers and 287 partners at the end of 2019.

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