CHARLESTON – As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to change daily life, one West Virginia-based law firm is working to keep its clients and others ahead of the game.
Spilman Thomas & Battle has created a COVID-19 Task Force to help clients with questions today and in the future.
“The questions from our business clients began with, ‘What are we going to do with our employees?” said Kevin Carr, co-chairman of the firm’s labor and employment practice group. “Then, the questions grew. They were asking about the tax ramifications of the proposed federal legislation, about intellectual property issues. What if a company has to lay people off? Then, our clients were getting questions from vendors.
“It grew beyond a few areas of focus to one where he had no choice but to put together a working team to handle it. The people on the task force have expertise in a bunch of areas.”
Eric Kinder, another labor and employment attorney with the firm, said about a dozen attorneys in various practice groups and various offices are helping with the task force. Those include labor and employment, health care, wealth management, bankruptcy, construction and intellectual property.
“And we have not only been working with our current client base, but we’ve reached out to alliances and trade groups we work with whether they’re existing clients or not,” Kinder said. “This affects the entire West Virginia economic community.”
Carr said members of the firm have been working the last few weeks on putting the task force together.
“I’d like to say it was creative genius, but it was a function of client necessity,” Carr said. “It’s not a gimmick. It’s the only way we can adequately address the issues being brought up.
“It was born out of necessity. We are here to answer questions from companies that need support and guidance right now.”
Both Carr and Kinder said it is part of the firm’s effort to be a good corporate citizen.
“We also saw a need to cut through the noise,” Carr said. “So, we put together this task force to work in real time to advise our clients. We saw the need to be the gatekeeper of telling everyone what is fact and what is a good recommendation.”
“We just want to make sure anybody who needs information can get it timely and accurately.”
“The concerns have been growing and cresting,” he said. “We didn’t want to be alarmist, but we wanted to be responsive.
“We have to try to avoid sensationalism and panic. We just want to get the information out to everyone.”
Carr said the members of the task force also are handling their regular caseloads.
“It has taken a lot of internal planning,” he said. “We have to make sure we stay up on our day-to-day work as well.”
Both Carr and Kinder said this situation will result in changes to many aspects of daily life.
“What is going to be the new normal of the workforce nationwide and in West Virginia?” Kinder said. “Are there lessons? And, what can we do about it? We have to also be learning, adapting and adjusting.”
“Let’s make sure we’re learning from this, too,” he said. “With our task force, people can know the folks advising you know where the pitfalls will be. And we all can use this situation for whatever good that can come out of it.”
Carr also said he knows the future will hold Coronavirus-related lawsuits.
“We see litigation on the horizon, whether it is related to layoffs, sickness, workers’ comp,” he said. “We see people looking at teleworking. It was a rage, then it wasn’t. There were legal issues. Now, more and more people are going to be forced to wrestle with what their workforce looks like.”