A Family Lawyer’s Advice to Law Firms Coping with COVID-19

Over the last two months, attorneys across the country have been forced to adjust to this “new normal” due to COVID-19. Though some may be accustomed to this new work-from-home lifestyle, it’s important during this period of uncertainty to use time wisely and productively to better serve not only your clients but yourself.

Right now, people’s lives are completely up in the air. This axiom equally applies to the practice of law – including you. Think of that great old pearl of wisdom: People plan. God laughs. Welcome to the new normal. What is known today will evaporate tomorrow. It will begin again. 

Do those words still apply during this unprecedented time? Thinking back to a few months ago, attorneys would have never imagined that familiar courtroom arguments would soon be done through computer screens and that crucial cases would be put on hold until further notice.

The world has forever changed and law firms around the world have taken the steps to ensure business continuity and peace of mind for their clients and themselves. So, what are some of the ways that law firms can cope with the effects of the pandemic? Matthew P Barach , founder and Principal of Barach Family Law Group, LLC and author of the published American Bar Association book, “The Family Law Guide to Appellate Practice.” , offers his thoughts to Lawyer Monthly on how attorneys can both cope and grow in changing times.

Maintain a balance

By now, most of us are accustomed to only speaking with colleagues and clients virtually. You may even have scheduled weekly virtual meetings to maintain your professional relationships and ensure they remain strong (and if not, you should!).

However, since you’re no longer running back and forth between courts, be sure to not overschedule or overcompensate for the void in your time. The thought of not having enough work may seem unimaginable. Avoid the immediate reaction to over-schedule client calls and virtual meetings. It is important to recognize these are strange times and you will have both good and bad days – accept it and stay mentally healthy by providing balance to your time.

Avoid the immediate reaction to over-schedule client calls and virtual meetings.

Prepare for the unexpected

One day, COVID-19 will be a distant memory and we’ll joke with our grandchildren about the time we were quarantined in our homes for two months. However, who’s to say that another pandemic won’t one day arise or a natural disaster won’t force us to stay home for a while?

While being equipped for the present is important, being prepared for the long haul is just as crucial. Have a set plan in place for the upcoming months and take this extra time to plan for every possible scenario as a result of this crisis. What can you take away from this experience and how can you utilise that to better prepare yourself and your business? Encourage your employees to think outside the box as well and ask questions such as:

  • Were there things you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about working remotely?
  • Should you consider adding a new practice area?
  • Will you continue to have virtual meetings to cut back on travel time?
  • Should you be making more time for yourself?
  • How can I continue to balance life and work?

These are the types of questions that should be contemplated before going back to business-as-usual.

Market yourself

Something that many lawyers tend to put on the back burner is marketing themselves. Clients are putting legal matters on hold for now – however, that will quickly change once life returns to normal. Use this newfound downtime as an opportunity to market yourself so that once the pandemic subsides, you are positioned as the go-to lawyer.

Divorce lawyers, in particular, are expecting an increase of couples rushing to the courthouse as the COVID-19 pandemic eases. The theory goes that hostile spouses trapped in quarantine together are counting the days until the ban is up so they can seek a new life commencing with a divorce filing!

As potential clients look to begin their cases, they’ll be researching attorneys who are well-informed on the latest policies. Take this opportunity to update your bio on your firm website, publish a blog post, contribute an article to your favorite legal news source, or even make new connections through LinkedIn. Most of these opportunities are free and only take a few minutes of your time, making now the perfect time to explore them.

Use your eraser, not your pen

It’s important to accept that the answers that you have to today’s problems may not be the same solutions you have in a week. Flexibility is key – your 30-day plan may need to be adjusted to a weekly, daily or hourly plan.

Be proactive and honest with your employees and clients, and let them know that although you may not have the answers, you will navigate the solutions to the best of your ability while staying up-to-date on the evolving COVID-19 laws and regulations.

Flexibility is key – your 30-day plan may need to be adjusted to a weekly, daily or hourly plan.

As attorneys, our job is to lead. To lead your associate colleagues, your clients, and your legal community. We lend a hand when it is needed, we find solutions to pesky problems, we lead progress, we charge forward in the face of adversity, we make our voices heard.

Embrace the change as a law firm and take it as a learning opportunity.

Those clients will return from their shelter in place, and while their spirits may be worn and weary, they will need you now more than ever – and us attorneys will be there waiting with open arms.

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