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Coronavirus and Your Practice
By: Aron Solomon
Facing a crisis such as Coronavirus, your firm can choose to be either reactive or proactive. We strongly recommend the latter and in this brief piece suggest five key areas which you should begin to consider and work on today. This virus has the potential to rapidly evolve in the United States, and it’s better for your practice to be safe and fully-prepared than sorry.
- Be flexible and creative in how you do intake and serve clients. Some current and prospective clients will be far less likely to leave their homes, take public transit, etc. This is a great opportunity to revisit how you serve clients, what your staffing needs truly are, and whether you can strike a better balance between the physical and virtual. If you have always done client intake in person, what is the best telephone/WhatsApp/Skype system you can quickly put in place?
- Track facts and present-sense impressions for later use. You don't want to be in a position where you need to look back to literally today and see what was happening with the virus and parties' actions or inactions. Beginning today, track the trends and the facts. Scan the news and every relevant social feed for stories and to identify potential areas of liability. If, as was the case yesterday, people seeking Coronavirus testing were denied because there is no plan of action in place, track this as one of many potential foundations for future claims. Gather information and perspective now in real time rather than having the burden of trying to track back to today.
- Provide important information on your site. Depending upon your area of practice, you can share advice for your clients on their rights and how you suggest they should proceed when faced with a Coronavirus-related issue. These issues can include when an employee can be excused from work in the face of an epidemic, consumer rights, issues around banking and the availability of goods and medicines, and much more. If you are a local/regional solo or small practice, focus much of your news on your home community. If you are a larger firm, you should connect more dots among what’s happening elsewhere. In a similar vein, leverage all of your social media presence to gain more of a foothold as the type of firm that is concerned with current geopolitical issues that can affect their clients. Don’t ever be a scaremonger, but provide targeted and relevant content for your stakeholders. During the SARS outbreak, for example, many states relied upon their own legal authorities to control the movement of persons, while other states were more passive and looked to federal authorities and the executive branch (which in 2003 added SARS to the list of communicable diseases).
- Be ready when opportunity strikes. The reality is that several practice areas (plaintiff and defense insurance work; employment law; and medical malpractice, among others) could boom as a result of the spread of the Coronavirus and how timely, competently, or poorly people and institutions react. Do you have a plan in place to rapidly expand the capacity and capabilities of your practice? Do you have access to skilled on-demand legal experts who can help you temporarily scale up quickly? Are you in an area of law where you may be in demand across new geographies and how can we properly and legally staffed to meet that new demand?
- Prepare your own practice. Will your employees become uncomfortable with or unwilling to commute to your office? What are your policies and action plans should you have an employee suspected or diagnosed with the virus? What about seemingly simpler things, such as an employee (particularly one who deals in person with your clients) insisting on wearing a protective mask? Are these issues currently addressed in your employee handbook, or is this a perfect time to revisit, review, and renew existing or missing policies?
As each day passes, we add to the 81,000 Coronavirus cases around the world. WIth mounting inevitability that the virus will more deeply hit the United States, the most intelligent and forward-looking lawyers want to be on the right side of the trends and news cycles.