MoFo’s Pro Bono COVID-19 Response

As we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and its effects, the economic and social disparities that have been illuminated in our most vulnerable communities cannot be ignored. These populations include low-income students and families, the homeless, essential workers, and healthcare professionals on the frontlines.

Morrison & Foerster lawyers and staff from around the world have answered the call to serve those who have been most impacted by the pandemic. They’ve formed and joined response task forces – including our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force – held free virtual legal clinics for small businesses, assisted nonprofits dedicated to a number of COVID-19 related issues, developed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center, and so much more.

U.S. Efforts

  • Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York Corporate, Privacy, Licensing, and Tax lawyers are working with Survivor Corps on general corporate, tax, licensing, partnerships, collaborations, and privacy matters. Survivor Corps is a grassroots movement connecting, educating, and mobilizing COVID-19 survivors with medical, scientific, and academic research communities, to help stem the tide of the pandemic and assist in national recovery. Survivor Corps currently has over 58,000 members on its Facebook page, which connects COVID-19 survivors, those currently suffering from COVID-19, and the people who support them.
  • Our Boston corporate team is providing COVID-19 related advice to the Fab@CIC group, which is producing 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.

  • Lawyers in New York have organized a Rapid Response Team to participate in a multi-firm effort that helps small businesses get the assistance they need to survive the pandemic. Finance, real estate, tax, employment and/or IP lawyers collaborate as needed to advise each client on its legal needs.
  • In a cross-office effort between Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, MoFo litigators are helping client Legal Services NYC advise a network of mental health volunteers. The network of 1200+ therapists, counselors, spiritual care providers, and healers are planning to volunteer their services to frontline workers fighting COVID-19, including healthcare professionals, first responders, and emergency personnel.

    New York-based lawyers 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.

  • MoFo San Francisco lawyers teamed up with All Home California to create the California Small Enterprise Task Force (“CASE Force”), which voluntarily 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.
  • A number of lawyers in the San Francisco office are participating in a healthcare directives clinic, providing advice to first responders in partnership with long-time pro bono partner, the Justice & Diversity Center of the Bar Association of San Francisco. During the one-hour clinics, attorney volunteers guide individuals on how to handle medical care choices specific to California, if they become incapacitated. Those seeking advice at the clinics will also have the opportunity to be referred for full-scope estate planning assistance, through the San Francisco Bar Lawyer Referral Service.

    A team of lawyers in San Francisco’s Corporate, Trademarks, Technology Transactions, and Tax practice groups are advising existing client COVID-19 Watch on a variety of matters. COVID-19 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-19 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.

    A pro bono team in Palo Alto is working with nonprofit partner Centro Legal de la Raza to help three clients with potential early release from detention in light of COVID-19. All three clients are serving sentences for nonviolent offenses at federal corrections institutions and have medical conditions that put them at high risk for complications from COVID-19. They will also request that the clients be released early and not be subject to ICE detention upon release to mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19.

    Additionally in California, lawyers staffed 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 made a presentation and answered questions from nonprofits about the Payment Protection Plan (PPP), under the stimulus bill.

    Lawyers in California are also advising a variety of nonprofit organizations regarding PPP loan applications and forgiveness requirements, including Bay Area Legal Aid, a nonprofit providing free legal services to low-income residents of the San Francisco Bay Area, The Billion Oyster Project, a nonprofit that is restoring oyster reefs to the New York Harbor in collaboration with New York City communities, and APA Family Support Services, a nonprofit focused on providing advocacy and services for at-risk Asian and Pacific Islander children and their families.

  • Lawyers in Washington, D.C. and Palo Alto teamed up to advise nonprofit organizations Science Sparks and Health Care Without Harm, respectively, on force majeure and other issues arising from cancelled conferences due to safety concerns caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Litigation attorneys in our Washington, D.C. office joined forces with our New York office to advise the Ali Forney Center on COVID-19 employment and other crisis-related advice. The Ali Forney Center is a nonprofit providing housing and medical services to homeless LGBTQ+ youth in New York City.

    Additionally, the firm will be participating 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 communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis.

  • 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.
  • Lawyers from our FDA/Healthcare and Products Liability practices are advising a group of volunteer engineers who are designing a “last resort” ventilator for COVID-19 patients.

International Efforts

  • 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.
  • London finance attorneys 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 platform. This platform provides expert advice and guidance from the UKs leading companies to SMEs.

  • Lawyers from Berlin and Brussels are helping Care4Corona with a privacy policy and reviewing website terms and conditions. Care4Corona is a new website that provides information and expert advice to help people stay as positive and as mentally and physically fit as possible amidst the coronavirus crisis.
  • Tokyo litigators successfully represented Whole Woman's Health Twin Cities in federal litigation in the District Court of Minnesota against a lawsuit that was brought to prohibit abortion providers from performing abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic based on the argument that they are “non-essential” and “elective.” The day after MoFo filed its motion to dismiss the case, the plaintiff withdrew the action.
  • In a cross-office effort among Tokyo, Hong Kong, and the U.S., MoFo is helping to create a U.S.-based nonprofit called Students Against the Virus Entrepreneur 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 qualifies for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and, if it passes the test, will then help the founders with incorporation and filing for tax-exempt status. SAVE’s high school program will run as a start-up contest and include teams from 16 leading secondary schools worldwide. The contest will be judged by leading business figures.
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