Cross-disciplinary team advises on lease litigation, related disputes in COVID-19 era

Global law firm Baker McKenzie has established a Lease Litigation & Restructuring Group (LLRG) in North America, offering a full range of services for both tenants and landlords looking to renegotiate, terminate or reimagine lease agreements as the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic disruption continue.

The LLRG is cross-practice and comprises practitioners from the Firm’s litigation, real estate, restructuring and insolvency, employment, insurance and tax practices. The team advises companies with multiple retail or office locations as they review lease terms, consider possible claims and defenses, evaluate strategies for moving forward and prepare for new law and legislation that will likely change the commercial real estate landscape for years to come.

"Our clients need immediate, business-focused legal advice to navigate this extremely uncertain time and protect themselves in a rapidly changing commercial real estate environment," said Perrie Weiner, who is based in Los Angeles and is spearheading the practice along with Paul Keenan, a Restructuring & Insolvency partner based in Miami, Fla.

"Tenants are likely to have more difficulty paying rent as the pandemic stretches on this fall and PPP loans under the CARES Act run out, but there are effective litigation strategies, both offensive and defensive, with viable defenses and claims that can protect the tenant, even in what otherwise appears to be an iron-clad lease agreement that favors the landlord,” said Perrie. “These strategies balance tenants' legal and business goals, and are flexibly-geared for achieving them, whether that be a courtroom victory or a favorable 'walkaway settlement'," Perrie added.

Baker McKenzie's new team includes Perrie Weiner, Paul Keenan, Andy Sagor, Garry Jaunal, Robin Samuel, Blaire Cahn, Sarah Winston, Ronald Ohren, Aaron Goodman and Ben Turner, among other practitioners throughout North America. In addition to guiding clients through lease litigation, LLRG practitioners can also advise on related restructuring, secured and unsecured financing transactions, employment and tax issues, and business interruption coverage. 

In addition, LLRG practitioners can advise as tenants and their employees prepare to re-enter their premises, as there are certain local ordinances requiring the landlord's retrofitting of premises which many landlords are not adhering to and which likely will trigger related labor and employment issues and litigation.

Added Peter Tomczak, Chair of Baker McKenzie's North America Litigation & Government Enforcement Practice, "We are pleased to expand our offerings in the area of lease litigation, as we anticipate our clients' needs in this evolving business environment. We are focused on offering practical solutions for companies that are facing increasingly complex challenges, whether as a result of the COVID-19 crisis or in simply looking beyond to successfully navigating a post-pandemic world."

Deb Dandeneau, Global Chair of Baker McKenzie’s Restructuring & Insolvency practice, also noted that “lease restructuring, whether in or out of bankruptcy proceedings, is an important strategy in navigating today’s uncertain business climate.  Our cross-practice group of seasoned practitioners is poised to assist our clients in navigating these complex issues in a rapidly changing environment.”
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