The recent global pandemic changed people’s everyday lives and lowered all the expectations there might have been for 2020. On top of the COVID-19 crisis, several protests are occurring in metropolitan cities; people are demanding justice for the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. These deaths were all a result of the systematic racism in our country. Are Law Firms connected to the society they serve, or are they remaining silent during this time of crisis? Several Law Firms across the country have been sending out their condolences to the families who have suffered losses, as well as stating their condemning of racism.
One statement that was issued by Skadden’s managing partner, Eric Friedman, was particularly well received. Friedman’s email regarding the topic called out the recent violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery while giving the description of how the deaths occurred.
Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis when the officer decided to put his knee on the neck of Floyd, causing him to be unable to breath. Taylor was a technician in Louisville when officers used a battering ram to crash into her apartment due to the belief, she was involved in selling drugs; she was shot at least eight times. Arbery was jogging and was chased and killed by armed white men in a South Georgia neighborhood.
Friedman continued to state that as a firm, “we cannot fully live up to out core values without ensuring that Skadden continues to be a safe and welcoming place for everyone.” By using his platform, Friedman demands his firm be apart of the solution. Skadden is donating $100,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in hopes to support racial justice.
Davis Polk & Wardell also released a statement expressing disgust and grief over the tragic events. The email statement reaffirmed that the core values of Davis Polk are ones of fairness and respect. The firm will be donating $100,000 to the Thurgood Marshall Institute.
One of the most through responses to the recent events comes from Lowenstein Sandler’s Gary Wingens. In the statement, the firm encourages employees to use their voice while standing up in situations of racism. The firm also acknowledged that these events have cause an emotional toll, and they provided links to resources for their employees who may be struggling; they also provided social justice organizations that are in need of support as well as reaffirmed the values of the firm. Most importantly, the firm took it even a step further to announce their commitment to keeping race and bias in the national conversation. They will be hosting discussion series that explore the impact of bias and racism.
While it might not seem like drastic measures are being taken by BigLaw firms, their intentions are to inform their clients and employees and take a stand against racism and oppression. As the country began to reopen, people started going back to work, restaurants allowed limited seating, and groups began to gather. But now, in big cities in all fifty states, people are gathering to protest what they see as a divide along racial lines. In the past week, tens of thousands of people have began protesting, and more than nine thousand have been arrested.
As for COVID-19, the situation is complicated for medical professionals as they must analyze a potential increase of cases while also understanding the reasons behind the protest.