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Abstract business cooperation with handshake different colors.In this time of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the role of outside counsel has never been more important. The outside attorney is in a unique position to team with his clients to develop solutions to problems like those created by the coronavirus epidemic.

First, outside counsel is more connected, particularly in these times, than people at a client. The attorney is in contact with multiple clients and contacts, who are often competitors and peers of the client. While the lawyer cannot breach client confidentiality, she can share, at a high level and on a no-names basis, what she is seeing in the market and how other firms are dealing with similar issues. Clients and even non-clients feel more comfortable that an attorney will keep their matters confidential. In contrast, while a business person could contact someone at a peer firm, there often is not the same level of trust that the peer will not disclose that information to someone else (e.g., an investor considering two fund sponsors). In this way, outside counsel can serve as a valuable intermediary in the market. As the attorney sees similarly situated clients dealing with issues in a particular environment, such as COVID-19, he is able to reach out proactively to his other clients to ask if they are also considering these issues.

If the attorney is part of a larger firm or practice group, she can similarly take advantage of what her partners and colleagues are seeing with their clients and contacts. Their clients may consist of different types of counterparties within the market, such as lenders, operating companies, investors, placement agents, administrators and consultants. They may also come from different asset classes and product types, such as mutual funds, private equity, hedge, credit or real estate. The law firm attorneys have the benefit of speaking freely among each other without concerns about client confidentiality, which further deepens their understanding of the issues at hand. The outside counsel’s connections relative to any one client are thereby multiplied even greater.

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