Pandemics and Ethics: How To Sustain Lawyer Quality and Client Service

April 3, 2020

By: Devika Kewalramani

New York Law Journal

It is not the best of times, it is the worst of times. As the coronavirus catastrophe casts an ominous shadow over New York law firms, offices are closing, lawyers are working remotely, firms are activating their pandemic response plans, and their crisis management teams are assessing how best to serve clients while grappling with their own business operations and the well-being of employees. Dealing with deadlines and complex legal problems is second nature to lawyers, but working under enormous pressure in unprecedented conditions is a game changer. How should a lawyer ethically respond to the coronavirus crisis? Do heightened standards of professional conduct apply when a disaster strikes? What ethical obligations are owed to clients when a lawyer might need to self-quarantine to avoid potential exposure or to prepare for the possibility of illness? And, what if a lawyer is too sick to continue representing clients? The New York Rules of Professional Conduct provide some general guidance on the ethics rules that may apply in these dire circumstances.

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