Paul Weiss’s Bold Leadership On Coronavirus Pro Bono Efforts

Brad Karp

Terror is a feeling we’re all getting used to keeping at bay. The novel virus COVID-19 seems to be coming for us all, indiscriminately afflicting friends and celebrities with equal ease. And even for those privileged enough to assume they can survive the health impacts, the economic downturn is looming, the first harbinger of which are the slew of restaurant workers that have just been laid off. It’s enough to make anyone want to bury their head in the sand until the whole mess blows over.

That (albeit, understandable) approach is pretty much the opposite of what Paul Weiss chairman Brad Karp did as the impacts of COVID-19 started to cascade. He’s decided to harness the awesome power of Biglaw to help those who are facing daunting economic realities. As officials on the federal, state and local levels are working to ameliorate those impacts, Karp is organizing pro bono efforts at Paul Weiss to help folks navigate those complicated waters. As he told

“As these programs are rolling out, I believe we’re going to be able to help these individuals access emergency resources that would otherwise be unavailable,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon, he sent a firmwide email looking for volunteers to build a “swat team” to make sense of these resources. Within two hours, over 350 attorneys at the firm had responded by pledging their assistance. Another 25 to 50 have volunteered since the start of the day Monday.

“I’ve been chair of this firm for 13 years,” Karp said. “There’s nothing I’ve seen that compares to this.”

Those lawyers are already at work. They’re researching federal programs, New York state programs, New York City programs, other state programs, and private and charitable organization programs. They’re drafting FAQs, templates and other forms. And they’ll be staffing a 24/7 hotline to answer questions about all the programs.

Karp anticipates the firm will spend 2,500 hours a day on the effort, but he doesn’t think that’ll be enough. He’s calling on other firms to join in the effort so that the full power of Biglaw can be thrown at the problem:

“I think in the U.S. we’re going to need thousands of lawyers to step up and work with us on this,” he said.

Hopefully Biglaw heeds the call.

headshotKathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

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