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Coronavirus impact worsens as Reed Smith sends staff home

Law firms around the world have been forced to take ever more radical measures in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19, with Reed Smith asking its staff to work from home as Taylor Wessing closed its London office after a member of staff tested positive.

Reed Smith confirmed to Legal Business today (13 March) all its global staff is working from home as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, although the firm’s offices remained open.

A spokesperson for Reed Smith said in a statement: ‘With the uncertainty and the rapidly evolving situation around the COVID-19 outbreak, Reed Smith has decided to take additional preventative steps to protect our people, our clients and the firm’s business continuity.’

They added that all workforce across all the firm’s US, European and Middle East offices ‘will work remotely until further notice’. ‘In all of our offices, a team of essential employees will be available to assist with key business needs, including the support of clients that require in-person attendance. Our goal is to limit the spread of COVID-19.’

The spokesperson also said that none of the firm’s workforce had tested positive for the virus.

Also today, UK top 20 firm Taylor Wessing shut its London office until Wednesday 18 March after a staff member tested positive for the virus.

The firm said the person concerned has been self-isolating for the past week, has had a mild reaction and is recovering at home.

Taylor Wessing also cancelled its international partner conference which was planned for later this month.

A number of other firms have announced measures to respond to what the World Health Organisation described on Wednesday as a pandemic.

Hogan Lovells is testing large-scale remote working for its UK and US offices. Half of its US employees worked from home yesterday, the other half is working from home today, while employees in its largest office, London, and Birmingham will follow suit on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

The transatlantic firm has already got its staff in China, Italy and Spain to work from home as these countries imposed stringent measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Elsewhere, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan kept its New York office shut this week after a partner tested positive for COVID-19.

Several other firms including Latham & Watkins and Simmons & Simmons suspended partner conferences, while Linklaters held its conference virtually to avoid physical contact between staff.

Governments all around the world are taking measures to contain the spread of the disease.

US president Donald Trump banned all flights from 26 European countries into the States, while Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte put the entire country in quarantine.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that the UK had moved its strategy from the ‘contain’ to the ‘delay’ phase, saying anyone with symptoms such as cough or high temperature must self-quarantine for seven days. Unlike Ireland and Italy however the UK did not close schools or ban sporting events.

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk


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