UPDATE: Faegre Drinker said March 11 that it had reopened its offices outside Washington, D.C, where it said two different visitors had later tested positive with Covid-19. Our original report is below.
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath on Tuesday closed all 22 of its offices for the day amid concerns that personnel in its Washington, D.C., office were potentially exposed to Covid-19.
None of the firm’s lawyers and staffers have tested positive for the coronavirus, but a person who attended a recent event at Faegre Drinker’s Washington office did, the firm said in a statement. As a result, the firm’s executive leadership decided Monday to close the firm’s offices.
“Because the health and safety of our personnel and clients is our top priority, Faegre Drinker is temporarily closing its D.C. offices. As a measure of caution, our leadership team has also taken the step of closing our global offices on March 10 while we evaluate this situation,” the firm said in its statement.
Faegre Drinker has 158 people working across two offices in D.C., according to the firm’s website. It has two locations there because Faegre Baker Daniels and Drinker Biddle & Reath, which officially merged into one firm last month, each had a D.C. office of its own.
In its statement, Faegre Drinker touted the fact that its lawyers, consultants and professionals “are equipped with the required technology to work remotely and remain ready and available to assist clients.” However, a source told The American Lawyer that the firm did ask its staff to postpone all client meetings that were originally scheduled for Tuesday.
At this point, it’s unclear how long Faegre Drinker will keep its offices closed. The firm in its statement said, “As we evaluate when to re-open offices, we will keep the health and safety of our personnel, clients, visitors and the public at the front of our minds.”
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan closed its New York office—where more than 200 of its lawyers are based—for the week after one of its partners contracted the coronavirus. Earlier this month, lawyers at the small Midtown Manhattan law firm of Lewis and Garbuz were sent home after one of the firm’s lawyers tested positive for the coronavirus.
A growing number of firms have created working groups to advise clients on how the virus will impact them, while at the same time canceling partner retreats and restricting travel. Those cancellations have hit firms ranging from Osborne Clarke to Faegre Drinker.
A Faegre Drinker spokeswoman said Monday, before the offices were closed, that the firm had decided to postpone its partners and principals retreat, which was scheduled to take place in Miami this week.
At the same time, the spread of the virus is testing the remote-work capabilities of various Big Law firms, who have begun allowing their lawyers and staff in certain offices to work from home if they’re feeling sick or uncomfortable.
Faegre Drinker’s full statement:
“Faegre Drinker’s executive leadership team was notified on the evening of March 9 that an attendee at a recent event in our Washington, D.C. office has since tested positive for COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Because the health and safety of our personnel and clients is our top priority, Faegre Drinker is temporarily closing its D.C. offices. As a measure of caution, our leadership team has also taken the step of closing our global offices on March 10th while we evaluate this situation.
“No Faegre Drinker personnel have tested positive for coronavirus – this is simply a precautionary measure while we evaluate the appropriate path forward. Our attorneys, consultants and professionals are equipped with the required technology to work remotely and remain ready and available to assist clients. As we evaluate when to re-open offices, we will keep the health and safety of our personnel, clients, visitors and the public at the front of our minds.”