Find out what your attorney is doing to keep you safe
The coronavirus is changing the ways people interact with one another and the ways businesses manage their employees and serve their clients and customers. It is also changing people’s routines and ways of life. While many businesses are required to temporarily close, some, including law firms, may remain open but must modify their operations. It is imperative that while remaining open, such businesses be proactive rather than reactive. In being proactive, hopefully all law firms have been implementing steps to minimize the risk of exposure by revising their policies and procedures in order to protect their employees, clients, and the community.
Law firms should be following the CDC protocols aimed at limiting the spread of the Corona virus, including requiring their employees to stay home if they are sick and encouraging them to minimize their social engagements. All the firms’ operations should be conducted in compliance with the “social distancing” rule recommendation, including interactions with messengers and vendors. Strict respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene are required with hand sanitizer and paper towels readily available. Some law firms may even provide facemasks and disposable gloves to their employees and to their clients upon request. Clients should receive new pens to sign with that they can take home or are disposed of afterwards. Offices should be frequently cleaned and common areas including doorknobs, tables, and chairs should be sanitized after every appointment.
However, all these precautions are undermined if clients do not responsibly undertake protective measures. Therefore, oftentimes law firms will confirm with clients prior to their appointment that they are feeling well and have not traveled recently by airplane. Any sick clients or clients who have recently traveled by airplane should have appointments rescheduled for a later time. Employees should work at a safe distance from one another and maintain such a safe distance from clients. Such distancing can be effectuated by holding meetings and appointments in large conference rooms where proper distancing can be secured.
Readily available technology is increasingly utilized in order to minimize unnecessary in-person interactions. Similarly, some law firm employees can work remotely from home leaving only essential personnel remaining in the office. Appointments and consultations with clients can be conducted via telephone or videoconferencing. During this time, these methods are preferred by attorneys and even clients as it eliminates any risk of exposure. Even larger events, such as mediations, arbitrations, or depositions can be conducted from one’s home office or even living room using technology. Documents can be signed online and, in some states, online notary services are available.
Courts are also taking protective and proactive measures. In many courthouses across the nation, including those within Douglas County, non-urgent hearings are either postponed or conducted via telephone or videoconferencing. Legal conferences and continuing legal education classes are being offered online or postponed.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus has already led to a tremendous disruption to the practice of law as we know it. Law firms are committed to the health and well-being of their employees, clients, and the community and, by adopting new practices, resources, and adapting to the changes, can continue to offer valuable services in these difficult times. Speak with your attorney to find out what they are doing to keep you safe.
Natalia Vander Laan is a Minden attorney practicing estate planning, family law, and workers’ compensation.