The resurgence of the coronavirus has stunted some firms that were already seeking to recover from the pandemic’s initial destruction. The reopening of businesses will require massive efforts by governments, businesses, and citizenry. As we have already witnessed, there have been and will continue to be complications to overcome, including a weakened economy, shortages of some supplies, and a resurgence of the virus. To help you overcome these challenges, here are some tips and resources for reopening law offices and fully restoring the profitability of practices.
Rethinking Your Office Space
The focus here is on the actual, physical structure where you work. Consider improvements to your workplace and the building structure, such as automatic doors, door-less restrooms, improved air filtration, voice-activated elevators, and widened hallways.
Communicate all of your anticipated plans regarding safety protocols with staff, colleagues, and clients. Letting these stakeholders know that their safety and well-being are top priorities will keep up morale and go a long way during these hectic times.
Adopt guidelines for safe practices and update them to comply with evolving regulations. If you have the staffing, appoint a “safety ambassador” and use sensors to remind employees about social distancing and good hygiene.
Maintain marketing activities, including conducting online seminars, emailing alerts, publishing articles, and updating websites. Host special events such as virtual lunches or virtual coffee dates.
Start the recovery process by planning for your office reopening. The plan should be a comprehensive document that covers financial, operational, and technology matters. Doing this in phases, such as those implemented by courts and by most states, will help with showing what you are doing in each step of the process and your timeline for it. This plan may also be used in the future for any unforeseen circumstances that arise.
Consider continuing to work remotely until testing and vaccines are more widespread. Use technologies that facilitate remote working, including cloud computing, videoconferencing, and project management software. Continue to replace face-to-face gatherings with virtual meetings. Download apps to manage work schedules and employee productivity.
Accommodate social distancing in reception areas, workspaces, and conference rooms. If your office has a public restroom, consider implementing social distancing guidelines in there as well. Move chairs six feet apart, install plexiglass partitions on workstations, and limit the use of shared spaces as much as possible. Post signs to direct one-way traffic in hallways.
Follow the guidance of public officials and health organizations when selecting a date to reopen your office space for in-person use. Use staggered opening dates with rotating schedules to reduce the number of people in the office at any given time. After reopening, allow remote working to continue for at-risk individuals and those with heightened anxiety, as well as for those caring for children. Make sure to plan for client meetings so that there are as few people necessary in one space as possible.
Adopt safety procedures such as scanning temperatures upon entering the office, installing hand sanitizing stations near entrances, and requiring continued mask usage. These procedures should be at least as restrictive as those required within your state or community. Limit the number of people in common areas like break rooms, conference rooms, and restrooms. Purchase supplies such as COVID-19 test kits (if available), disposable desk pads, hand sanitizers, infrared thermometers, and surface disinfectants for your office space.
The coronavirus pandemic may adversely affect your firm’s operations and the ability of clients to pay their bills. To succeed in this challenging environment, adopt a plan that promotes a spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and flexibility among your work community. Review the resources listed at the end of this article to help your firm optimize profits and maintain well-being.
Michael L. Goldblatt is a lawyer and author who has authored numerous books and articles about marketing for lawyers.
- Cash flow: Stephanie Francis Ward, “How can law firms stay afloat through the novel coronavirus crisis?,” ABA J., Mar. 26, 2020.
- Client relations: Alex Dimitrief, “GE’s Former GC: Clients Have Long Memories for Outside Counsel’s Conduct in a Crisis,” Law.com, Mar. 31, 2020.
- Crisis management: Jim Calloway, “Pandemic-Proof Your Practice,” Law Practice Tips, Oct. 14, 2020.
- Disease control: Zurich Services Corp., “Infectious disease control in the workplace,” RiskTopics, Nov. 2007.
- Litigation surge: Hugo Martin, “A coronavirus side effect: lots of lawsuits,” L.A. Times, Apr. 21, 2020.
- Marketing techniques: Jonathan Fitzgerald, “10 Ways To Continue Biz Development During Coronavirus,” Law360, Mar. 16, 2020.
- Office layout: Mark Wilson, “Our offices will never be the same after COVID-19. Here’s what they could look like,” Compass (Fast Company), Apr. 13, 2020.
- Operating procedures: Jena McGregor, “The post-pandemic workplace will hardly look like the one we left behind,” Wash. Post, Apr. 23, 2020.
- Planning for reopening: Sarah E. Bouchard et al., “Reopening the Workplace: A Preliminary Guide for Us Employers,” LawFlash (Morgan Lewis), Apr. 16, 2020.
- Redesigning offices: Brodie Boland et al., “Reimagining the office and work life after COVID-19,” McKinsey Insights, June 8, 2020.
- Remote working: Krista Hart, “An Update on One Firm’s Telecommuting Journey,” Law Practice Today, Mar. 13, 2020.
- Crisis management: James F. Haggerty, Chief Crisis Officer: Structure and Leadership for Effective Communications Response (ABA Book Publ’g Apr. 26, 2017).
- Legal technology: Sharon D. Nelson, John W. Simek & Michael C. Maschke, The 2019 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide (ABA Law Practice Div. Jan. 1, 2019).
- Office organization: Kelly Lynn Anders, The Organized Lawyer (Carolina Acad. Press Dec. 30, 2008).
- Internet marketing: Deborah McMurray & Gregory Howard Siskind, The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet (ABA Law Practice Div. 4th ed. Feb. 24, 2017).
- Well-being: Stewart L. Levine, The Best Lawyer You Can Be: A Guide to Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness (ABA Law Practice Div. Aug. 23, 2018).
- Planning: Occupational Safety & Health Admin., Guidance on Returning to Work, OSHA 4050-06 2020.
- Reopening: State Bar of Michigan, Reopening Toolkit for Michigan Law Offices (May 28, 2020).
- Restarting: Smokeball, (Re)Starting Your Law Firm: A Checklist to Emerge from the Crisis or the Crowd.
- Returning to work: Harvard Information for Employees, Coronavirus Workplace Policies (updated Dec. 18, 2020).
- Telecommuting: Texas Society of Association Executives, Telecommuting Policy (sample).
- Workplace safety: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, What every American and community can do now to decrease the spread of the coronavirus.
- Federal Task Force, Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- American Bar Ass’n, Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness, Resources for Lawyers & Law Firms (Oct. 26, 2020).
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, COVID-19.
- Occupational Safety & Health Admin., Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
- U.S. Small Business Admin., Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources.
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