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Major U.S. law firms are mostly silent on the abortion ruling and are walking a tightrope

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June 26 (Reuters) – Major U.S. law firms have not taken a public stance since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade was overturned on Friday, at odds with the approach of some major firms that made statements in the closely watched abortion case.

Dobbs’ 6-3 Supreme Court ruling upheld a Republican-backed Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Following this decision, many states are expected to introduce further restrictions or bans on abortion.

Reuters on Friday asked more than 30 US law firms, including the top 20 by total number of lawyers, to comment on Dobbs’ decision and whether they will cover the travel expenses of employees seeking abortions.

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The vast majority had not responded by Saturday afternoon, with only two, Ropes & Gray and Morrison & Foerster, saying they would enforce such a travel policy.

Morrison & Foerster, with nearly 1,000 attorneys, was the only major firm to release a public statement by Saturday afternoon.

Firm chairman Larren Naschelsky said Morrison & Foerster “will redouble our efforts to protect abortion and other reproductive rights.”

Dobbs’ decision had been expected since the draft opinion was leaked in May.

Several major US corporations, including The Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and Meta Platforms (META.O), said Friday they will cover travel expenses for employees seeking abortions. read more

Industry experts say law firms could take a stand against Dobbs in the future if employees and clients force them to take a public stand. For now, executives seem to be carefully weighing the benefits and drawbacks of the comments, including the possibility of alienating customers, experts say.

“It’s a tightrope for firms,” ​​said Kent Zimmermann, a consultant at law firm Zeughauser Group. “They have different opinions among their talents and clients.”

Some firms sent internal messages to employees about the decision. Ropes & Gray chairman Julie Jones said in an internal memo seen by Reuters that the firm will hold several public meetings to discuss the decision and offer “comfort.”

“As the leader of Ropes & Grey, I am concerned about the impact this decision will have on our community,” Jones wrote, while acknowledging that her memo could “offend part of our community.”

A spokesman for Ropes & Gray told Reuters on Friday that employees enrolled in its health plan are eligible for financial assistance to travel out of state for an abortion.

Another major US law firm, Steptoe & Johnson, offered its US employees the day off on Friday, a spokesman confirmed. The spokesperson did not immediately respond to further requests for comment.

Despite the lack of public statements, a number of law firms publicly announced before the ruling that they planned to provide free legal support to women seeking abortions if Roe’s decision was overturned.

Both New York Attorney General Leticia James and San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu have partnered with the San Francisco Bar Association to launch pro bono initiatives that involve law firm volunteers. Paul Weiss, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and O’Melveny & Myers are among the contributors.

Paul Weiss Chairman Brad Karp called Dobbs’ decision a “crushing loss” in an internal filing from the firm Friday to Reuters. Paul Weiss and O’Melvaney, who both represented the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, defendants in the Dobbs case, deferred comments on the decision to their co-counsel, the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The center said in a statement that the court “has reached a new low, depriving – for the first time – constitutionally guaranteed personal freedom.”

Gibson Dunn did not respond to a request for comment.

Robert Kamins, a consultant with Vertex Advisors who works with law firms, said firms would be “very cautious” in taking an early stance on the ruling.

“They need to be sure they are thinking about it,” he said. – What is the impact on the business? What is the impact of the client? What is the impact of recruiting? There is something to think about.”

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Reporting by Karen Sloan from Sacramento, California and Jacqueline Thomsen from Swampscott, Massachusetts; Additional reporting by Mike Scarcella of Silver Spring, Maryland; Edited by Rebecca Mintzer, Noeleen Walder and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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