In this special edition of Matters That Matter, we take a look at some of the many ways MoFo lawyers have been stepping up in response to the coronavirus pandemic, assisting our most vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately affected.
MoFo lawyers and staff answered the call by forming response task forces, such as our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force, participating in free virtual legal clinics for small businesses, advising nonprofits on a number of COVID-19 related issues, developing our COVID-19 Resource Center, and so much more. Below are just a few examples of the many ways our lawyers are advancing our proud pro bono tradition every day.
- Tax partner Matt Lau and corporate partner Jesse Gillespie are leading a cross-office effort among Tokyo, Hong Kong, and the United States, helping to create a U.S.-based nonprofit called Students Against the Virus Entrepreneurship Program (SAVE). SAVE’s mission is to find support for COVID-19 related innovations by high school students. MoFo lawyers will confirm whether or not the proposed structure would qualify for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and, if they pass the test, then help the founders with incorporation and filing. SAVE’s high school program will run as a startup contest and include teams from 16 leading secondary schools worldwide. The contest will be judged by leading business figures.
- A multi-office team is working with scientists to launch and help build the Rapidly Emerging Antiviral Drug Development Initiative (READDI), a global organization aimed at discovering and developing drugs to put “on the shelf” for clinical trial testing in anticipation of future viral pandemics. In READDI, projects will adopt extreme open science methods and share drug discovery progress in real time, so that all can benefit. Their studies are focused on three viral families (coronavirus, flavivirus, and alphavirus) that cause the vast majority of epidemics and pandemics. The team includes New York corporate partner Jay Gavigan and associate Mara Goodman; New York tax partner Jay Blaivas and associate Phil Jaworskyj; with Boston partner Michael Ward, San Francisco of counsel Muzy Huq, New York of counsel Anthony Ramirez, and New York associate Wendy Chu advising on IP issues.
- Boston Corporate partner Todd Boudreau and New York partner Bethany Hills are leading a cross-office effort to provide COVID-19 related advice to the Fab@CIC group regarding the production of personal protective equipment (PPE). The group meets at the Cambridge Innovation Center and is using laser printing and other technology to produce face masks, face shields, and other PPE for use by medical and non-medical groups, such as nursing homes and homeless shelters. The group would like to make sure that they do not run into liability issues as they are making medical equipment. The MoFo team also includes associates Hilary Hoffman, Julie Park, Alexandra Preece, and Mike Maroni.
- In London, our attorneys are leading virtual legal clinics organized by TrustLaw for UK nonprofits and social enterprises, answering their questions on employment law, corporate governance, and bankruptcy issues that have arisen in the COVID-19 crisis. The online interactive clinics have addressed a number of relevant legal topics, such as employment, contractual rights, insurance, GDPR, governance, and health and safety, to name a few. MoFo London partner Annabel Gilham and associate Oliver Spratt are leading the employment and privacy effort with assistance from senior of counsel Howard Morris on governance and bankruptcy issues.
- London finance attorneys—including partner Benoit Lavigne, associate Ryan Abotomey, and trainee solicitor Christopher Lloyd—are working with Be the Business to help small and medium businesses in the UK get on the road to recovery by providing insights for their new Rebuild This platform provides expert advice and guidance from the UKs leading companies to SMEs.
- Managing partner of the New York office Brett Miller, along with partners Bethany Hills and Anthony Carbone, are advising Amplify Solutions, Inc. in connection with the invention of a UVC light-based device that reduces the bioburden on face masks, which could prove to be very helpful in the fight against COVID-19. The client has developed this invention as part of a separate nonprofit company, offering it at-cost to those who want one and making it free for first responders. In addition to the development of their UVC bioburden reduction device and the related FDA authorization process, the organization has sought our advice on corporate structuring and tax matters related to creating their nonprofit.
- New York finance partners Larry Ceriello, Geoffrey Peck, Jonathan Jacobs, and David Kaufman; TTG partner Vivian Hanson; tax of counsel Dave Sturgeon; finance of counsel Tushna Gamadia; and Northern Virginia employment of counsel Andrew Turnbull are leading the firm’s Rapid Response Team for the Small Business Legal Relief Alliance. The Alliance is a multi-firm effort to provide small businesses comprehensive consultations on their legal questions arising from the impact of COVID-19 on their operations.
- MoFo San Francisco lawyers teamed up with All Home California to create the California Small Enterprise Task Force (“CASE Force”), which collects local, state, federal, and private/nonprofit resources for California small businesses impacted by COVID-19 and quickly disseminates this information in a digestible way.
- In addition to producing regularly updated guides on COVID-19 resources and offering weekly live support, the task force is forming a $1 billion investment fund that will direct money to California small businesses with less than 25 employees and hosting regular webinars to provide small businesses with access to live support from lawyers and financial professionals. The MoFo team includes partners Suz Mac Cormac and Alfredo Silva, as well as associates Kaela Colwell, Olga Terets, and Michael Santos.
- A team of lawyers in San Francisco’s Corporate, Trademarks, Technology Transactions, and Tax practice groups are advising existing client Covid Watch on a variety of matters. Covid Watch is one of the first teams in the world to develop anonymous exposure notification alert technology using Bluetooth, which would allow users to send anonymous exposure alerts to protect members of their community without sharing any personal information. MoFo is working with Covid Watch on corporate governance matters, assistance with potential collaborators and partners, trademark advice regarding its domain name, IP advice in developing its open source mobile application, and tax advice related to obtaining nonprofit status. The MoFo team includes partners Jackie Liu and Jennifer Lee Taylor, along with associates James Lee, Maureen Linch, Jessica Stern, Amber Harezlak, and Ryan Romain.
- San Francisco partner Jill Feldman is supervising a team, led by associates Jenepher Schulte, Nihal Shrinath, and William Cage, who are staffing a remote clinic organized by the Inner City Law Center (ICLC) for Los Angeles-based nonprofits regarding their questions about Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief. ICLC is a nonprofit dedicated to providing free legal services to the most vulnerable residents of Los Angeles and promoting access to decent, safe, and fully habitable housing. The team will make a presentation and answer questions from nonprofits about the Payment Protection Plan (PPP), under the recent stimulus bill. Jenepher, Nihal, and Jill are also advising The Billion Oyster Project, a nonprofit that is restoring oyster reefs to the New York Harbor in collaboration with New York City communities, regarding PPP loan applications and forgiveness requirements.
- Washington, D.C. partner Natalie Fleming Nolen is advising nonprofit organizations Science Sparks, with the help of litigation associate Robin Smith, and Health Care Without Harm, along with Palo Alto partners Bryan Wilson and Michael O’Donnell, on force majeure and other issues arising from cancelled conferences due to safety concerns caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Additionally, Washington, D.C. partner Brad Lui is leading an effort with associates Eileen Brogan and Arvind Miriyala to participate in the D.C. Legal Aid Society’s annual Making Justice Real Campaign to raise funds that will help individuals from underserved communities get access to legal representation. This year’s campaign will focus on the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.
To view the growing list of COVID-19 related pro bono matters, visit this special section of MoFo’s coronavirus resource center.
Matters That Matter looks at some of the most significant recently opened matters and developments in our global pro bono efforts, from staffing legal clinics and advising nonprofits on their legal needs to advocating for individuals who would otherwise be denied equal access to justice. For more examples of MoFo’s global pro bono efforts, visit our website.