Lawyers Tackle Covid-19: Evan Chesler of Cravath

The novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, Covid-19, are having an unprecedented impact on businesses and individuals, and law firms are doubling down to provide counsel and maintain the operation of their firms. In this series we're asking key questions of attorneys about how this global pandemic is affecting the work they do.

Evan Chesler is chairman of Cravath and a member of the 2020 Lawdragon 500.

Lawdragon: How has the novel coronavirus impacted your practice?

Evan Chesler: As we all know, there has been unprecedented change through this period. In terms of our litigation practice, while trials are on hold with much of the court system, we are responding to the growing needs of our clients, who represent all sectors of the economy. They have seen extreme disruption to their businesses and we are helping them navigate the challenges they face – in some cases, even involving questions of business survival. 

As a more general response to market developments, we have prepared more than a dozen resources related to legal issues arising out of the COVID-19 situation. The questions range from how courts may assess the applicability of force majeure clauses to what types of competitor collaborations are more likely to be immune from antitrust scrutiny in light of the pandemic. 

LD: What is your firm doing to help the community during this time of crisis?

EC: Seeing the selflessness of so many of our frontline healthcare workers, first responders and essential employees is truly humbling. And we are proud of the interest our lawyers have shown in making a contribution. We are working with a number of organizations to help meet the great need for services in our city and state. As examples, we are currently working with Volunteers of Legal Service to counsel those who have lost jobs and advise on how to access unemployment insurance benefits, and are arranging to work on a project to support small business owners applying for loans to support their businesses. As the situation evolves, we will continue to work with government and civic leaders to determine where support is needed. We are also continuing to encourage our lawyers' participation in the many pro bono programs in which we were involved prior to the crisis, knowing that this period creates additional uncertainty around more routine services and legal needs.

LD: What is your top piece of advice for your clients in regards to this pandemic?

EC: Obviously, much of my advice has been in response to the specific, challenging questions my clients have been asking in this extraordinary time. But when I talk to clients about the bigger picture, which I have been able to do on a number of occasions in the past few weeks, I ask them to remember what they were – more importantly, what they said they were – before the crisis began. I ask them to consider how important it is to their enterprise, and to the people who work for it, that they emerge on the other side of this as the organization and people they said they were in good times. The true measure of character is what and who we are in the worst of times. I believe I and Cravath are privileged to serve clients who are what they say they are. 

Visit our Covid-19 Resource page for a round-up of legal resources regarding the novel coronavirus.