The co-managing partners of my firm issued the message below for Susman Godfrey’s friends and clients, including you.
Expect updates on COVID-19 developments here and @contingencyblog.
To Susman Godfrey clients and friends:
In this time of concern and disruption because of COVID-19, we at Susman Godfrey have taken steps to safeguard our firm family and to protect our clients’ interest. We hope that you, your colleagues, and your families are healthy and safe. This public health crisis and its related economic impacts pose great challenges for everyone. We are here to help you navigate these challenges. Below we provide basic information about what we are doing, what you can expect from us going forward, and what you might do to preserve your legal rights.
We encourage you to contact the SG lawyers you are working with if you have specific questions or concerns. We are eager to keep the lines of communication open and strong.
What SG is Doing
We are open. Our offices-in Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle-are physically closed but very much “open for business.” Through our heavy investments in technology over the last few years, and our superb IT staff, we have easily and efficiently migrated to working remotely. We are actively working on clients’ cases through phone and video conferences, on-line platforms, and e-filings. Most courts are physically closed, but we are participating in hearings and depositions by phone and video. Legal research and brief writing proceed apace. In many of our cases, key documents are hosted on secure on-line platforms. Our lawyers continue to meet “virtually” and conduct business of the firm.
We are accustomed to working remotely (and securely). As a firm with only 4 physical offices but a national practice that has us litigating in almost all states, we are uniquely accustomed to, and adept at, remote work. Our Information Technology department remains online and is actively monitoring our secure remote systems including our virtual private network and secure document-sharing platforms. Our clients’ confidential data and documents are just as secure as they were before this crisis hit.
We are taking precautions. Though none of our personnel have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, we have ended most travel, and almost all of our personnel are working from home. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and obviously will comply fully with advisories and orders from all government authorities.
We are continuing to deliver wins for our clients. Even in the time that we have been working remotely, we have resolved major matters for clients, including settling a large IP claim for a plaintiff client on the eve of trial and obtaining a large judgment on a counter-claim for a defendant client in a matter that we tried prior to the crisis. We continue to pursue our clients’ claims and defenses with diligence and vigor.
What You Can Expect From Us
We are pressing ahead. We will continue moving cases forward, and conducting evaluations of potential cases, as much as possible. Our lawyers and staff have access to robust platforms that enable them to work outside the office and conduct business remotely, including factual and legal research, document review and management, and filing and service of pleadings, motions, notices, and briefs.
Our trial-team calls will continue. Each of our cases has a trial team, typically headed by an SG partner and including one or more client representatives. In ordinary times, each trial team convenes weekly, generally by teleconference, to review case status and discuss items on the evergreen task assignment memo for the case. These trial-team conferences will continue to the extent needed to make progress towards favorable resolution of disputes. With courts having slowed or postponed the scheduling of trials and hearings, trial-team tele-conferences may become less frequent, depending on the circumstances of the particular case.
We are staying on top of court deadlines. Courts and arbitral bodies across the country have cancelled or postponed trials and hearings and, in some instances, courts have authorized suspension of case deadlines and/or statute of limitations periods. Many courts have authorized the conduct of certain evidentiary proceedings and depositions by phone or video conference. We will be actively assessing the impact of these and future decisions on our clients’ cases, as the legal landscape continues to evolve in response to Covid-19.
We will give you periodic updates. Depending on the response we get to this email, we may also set up a site that provides general answers to common questions and points to potentially helpful resources our clients may wish to consult.
Expect a call from us. We have encouraged the SG lawyers who are working with you to check in with you to see whether you have specific questions, concerns, or needs.
Some Things You Can Do
Contact us. Our lawyers remain available to consult with clients as needed. Do not hesitate to call them when you have a question or concern. Our office lines are ringing to our cell phones; we are monitoring email continuously; and our lawyers are available for video conference with you by Zoom or other platforms.
Stay on top of deadlines. Although schedules, deadlines, and even statutes of limitation may in some instances be extended by a court or court system, there are some contractual deadlines that you need to be aware of, e.g., times for invoking force majeure or material adverse event clauses. Whether these clauses have been triggered may require a lawyer’s advice about the governing law, but you should be able to determine the existence of contractual deadlines by reading your contracts. It is not safe to assume that any schedule, deadline, or limitations period has been suspended or lengthened. If you have any questions regarding timeliness of taking any action, raise them promptly with any of the SG lawyers you are working with.
Reach out about new disputes. We have been handling complex commercial disputes, including contract disputes, for both plaintiffs and defendants for 40 years. The COVID-19 public health crisis will produce an unusual number of conflicts regarding compliance with or breach of commercial obligations. There will be many disputes about contractual duties whose performance may have been prevented, hindered, or delayed by the effects of COVID-19. “Force majeure” provisions and related doctrines will be implicated by many of these situations. Some businesses may be tempted to take advantage of the disruption to engage in anticompetitive practices, such as price-fixing or customer allocation-a concern about which the U.S. Department of Justice recently has warned.
Be safe. There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our firm family and you and your family. We urge you to follow directives and guidance on best practices for avoiding and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
Stephen D. Susman
Susman Godfrey L.L.P.