As corporations wrestle with the questions surrounding the U.S. Patriot Act and Homeland Security Act, law firms are forming practice groups focusing on the sweeping federal laws.
The Acts came in response to the terrorist attacks against the United States in 2001, have so many provisions that their impact reaches across dozens of industries and are expected to help shape the way companies conduct business with the federal government.
Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP recently formed a Homeland Security practice group after the federal government’s announcement that it wanted to interview Iraqi nationals living in the United States. That development prompted many of Kirkpatrick’s corporate clients to ask what that meant to businesses employing Iraqis, said Robert Sherry, a partner who leads the practice group from the firm’s San Francisco office.
Approximately 50 of the firm’s 700 lawyers are in the group. They specialize in areas including insurance, immigration, export controls, environmental issues and high technology.
The Patriot and Homeland Security acts “create a huge new legal overlay in a variety of disciplines,” Sherry said.
Other law firms agree. At San Francisco’s Morrison & Foerster LLP, financial services clients such as Visa are facing questions about how to comply with the Patriot Act’s new reporting requirements for suspicious currency transfers, said partner Brian Busey.
Morrison & Foerster said it formed its homeland security practice group to better coordinate which attorneys can help clients with issues. About 20 attorneys are active in the group and they are able to keep in contact with each other about what clients need, Busey said. “We look at it as a way to better organize existing groups” of attorneys, Busey said.
At Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe of San Francisco, attorneys’ work on Patriot Act issues prompted formation of a practice group. The firm’s numerous financial services clients are seeking clarification about how the act might affect the way they conduct business.