B&M’s Asian offices moot bird flu barriers

Baker & McKenzie (B&M) has put bird flu high on its global executive meeting agenda amid its staff’s growing concern of a pandemic.

The firm is set to discuss contingency measures for avian flu at its global executive meeting later this month, with a number of lawyers in its Asia Pacific offices concerned that sufficient preparations have not been made.

B&M Hong Kong managing partner David Fleming declined to comment, but sources within the firm told The Lawyer that offices have been left to deal with the issue individually. “Basically the support needs to come from the top if there’s an avian flu outbreak affecting humans,” said the source.

News of the bird flu agenda has amused lawyers at a number of rival firms in Hong Kong, who insist a human-to-human strain of bird flu is unlikely to develop.

“Most firms have contingency measures in place in the wake of Sars, but it’s really not a cause for concern just yet,” a lawyer from a rival firm in Hong Kong said. “Bird flu has been around for the past three years and it actually has to mutate into a new strain before it can pass between humans.”

So far there have been 118 confirmed cases of avian flu in humans in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

In comparison, Sars has killed 800 people worldwide and infected at least 8,400 since it emerged in 2002.