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Posted by on Mar 27, 2020 in Publications |

Practicing law responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic

Practicing law responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic

Like most law firms in the Los Angeles area, all of us here at Baker, Keener & Nahra are currently working from home during this challenging time out of respect for the various government and judicial orders that have been issued and in the interests of keeping each other and the community safe. We sincerely hope that all of you stay safe and well during this time and we remain available to reach by phone or e-mail in the event you are in need of any legal assistance.

For those of you currently in litigation or contemplating litigation, a quote contained in a recently issued Federal order seems appropriate during this emergency: “About half the practice of a decent lawyer is telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.” Hill v. Norfolk and Western Railway Co., 814 F.2d 1192, 1202 (7th Cir. 1987). This quote was referenced in the context of a plaintiff seeking a restraining order – in the middle of the pandemic – to ban the sale of products he claimed infringed on his trademarks. In denying the order, the Court contrasted the plaintiff’s situation (losing some sales to an infringing competitor) with the pandemic, spelling out at length the global nature of the threat to public health presented by the coronavirus and the valuable, limited resources of the Court during this time. Ultimately the Court reprimanded plaintiff and his attorney, instructing that it was not an emergency and to stop pretending it was: “The world is facing a real emergency. Plaintiff is not.”

There has been much in the public discourse about social distancing, personal hygiene, and other ways to act in a responsible manner while the pandemic runs through our country. While not as much has been said about responsible behavior in the legal setting, the fact remains that the courts in California have limited resources at this time that need to be preserved for those situations that are truly emergencies – e.g., where the literal health and personal welfare of the petitioners are at stake.

Of course cases still need to be litigated, claims investigated, lawsuits filed, and motions pursued during this time. The interests of justice and equity, as well as our duty to represent the interests of our clients, demands no less. But as participants in the legal system, we have a responsibility to handle these matters outside of the courts as much as possible and avoid “hoarding” judicial resources that are needed elsewhere. This may require us to try and cooperate with the other side when we might previously have litigated an issue, to wait patiently for the Court to address a matter when we might previously have tried to move to the front of the line, or to look for creative solutions when we might otherwise have gone to the Court for an answer. So during this time we ask for, and encourage, patience, grace, and professionalism amongst colleagues and clients on all sides of the legal process while we do our part during this crisis.

And with that, we’ll see all of you on the other side of this challenging time and wish you safety and good health until then.