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18 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Preparedness: Law Firm Edition

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every facet of business, and the legal profession is no exception. Law schools nationwide have either closed their doors for the semester or transitioned to online learning environments. Likewise, more and more law firms are temporarily shuttering their doors, including but certainly not limited to BigLaw giants Quinn Emanuel and Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath.

If BigLaw is closing its doors in the face of a global health crisis, you know that smaller firms are right behind them. Do not be fooled: this is no time for the “wait and see” approach. Coronavirus is infecting people across the globe at a rapid pace, and firms must be prepared for the inevitable: mandated building closures and a fully remote workforce.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Don’t panic, but it’s definitely time to start checking some boxes to ensure your attorneys are fully equipped to work remotely. Here are a few basic protocols to set you—and your soon-to-be-remote workforce—up for success.

Tips for preparing your law firm to work remotely

  • This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s essential to ensure that everyone has the equipment and permissions they need to successfully work from home. Are there attorneys who need multiple screens in order to work at maximum capacity? Is everyone able to access your firm’s network remotely? Making investments in technology for employees who need it will pay off in the long run in terms of continuity of client service and maintaining productivity.
  • In a similar vein, ensure that all attorneys have necessary licenses and passwords to access online resources. For example, if you use your state’s online court rules, or even client-based resources on a regular basis, will all your attorneys have access to that information when working remotely?
  • Make sure your firm’s calendaring system is cloud-based, thus accessible to everyone. Attorneys and staff will need to access court dates and other legal functions that your firm would normally use to operate as a unit. 
  • Prioritize data security. Although your firm’s servers may be secure, attorneys’ personal networks at home may not be. Unfortunately for all of us, cyber criminals are using the pandemic as a gateway to take advantage of remote employees; for example, many are employing phishing schemes, which can infect one employee’s computer and then gain access to the firm’s entire network. Make sure your employees are briefed on what constitutes as a suspicious email, what to do if they receive one, and who to contact in the event of a phishing attack.

A Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group survey of 11,000 workers and 6,500 business leaders revealed that, among the new issues most urgently affecting their businesses, the vast majority were employees’ expectations for flexible, autonomous work, better work-life balance and the ability to work from home. Law firms are notoriously resistant to change; in the face of this pandemic, hopefully there will be a thin silver lining when old-school firms realize that they can not only survive, but thrive in an environment in which some (or all) employees work remotely.

In the meantime, firms should build out a robust work-from-home plan now to avoid a mad scramble in the face of mandated closures down the line.  

 

[While you’re preparing your staffing strategies, you can also prepare yourself for potential legal issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a good place to start: A free Coronavirus Resource Kit that’s packed with vital practical guidance like articles, checklists, forms, practice notes and more. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS THE FREE CORONAVIRUS RESOURCE KIT.]