At the Orange County, California, Managing Partner Roundtable on March 10, 2020, the focus of our entire meeting revolved around issues impacting law firm management. We were able to unearth a myriad of concerns and questions regarding COVID-19, but few concrete answers at this juncture.
Perhaps your law firm might find these questions worth considering in the coming days:
- Will firms allow and absorb the costs of employees who need to stay out of the office beyond their given personal or sick days?
- Working remotely may be an answer for some personnel but many employees do not have remote access to firm systems from home or perhaps have jobs that cannot possibly be accomplished if they are out of the office, such as receptionists and file clerks. How does firm management deal with this?
- If an employee decides to stay home so they do not get ill for fear of passing it on to a relative who has a compromised immune system, how does the firm deal with those days off if they go beyond personal time?
- Should firms have rules posted for visitors such as not coming into the firm’s office if they have traveled to a foreign country in the past two weeks or have not been well themselves? Do receptionists ask these questions of each visitor?
- We have already seen multiple law firms cancel all non-essential meetings. Should all firms do this?
- One managing partner attendee had an employee who had been abroad and was tested for the disease. The employee tested negative for the COVID-19 virus. The employee gave permission for the partner to announce this to the firm. What if the employee had withheld permission to do so?
- What will the courts do? Will judges become available for phone or Zoom-type calls? Will there be dispensation for filing deadlines? Will the courts close and/or delay calendars?
- California has already declared a State of Emergency. How will this impact employers and employees over the next few weeks?
- Will the demand for legal services stay the same or possibly increase? What happens to law firm collections? Will the stock market continue to be a factor and cause a negative impact on all businesses and delay invoice payments? Will there be new accounts payable procedures?
- Will IT security need to be ratcheted up?
- If there is business loss due to illness from the disease or related issues such as work processes slowing down causing decreased productivity, how will business interruption insurance pay out in these instances?
- Firms with strong labor and employee practices are being asked for COVID-19 Handbooks, which of course don’t yet exist as the information, news, and regulations are changing constantly, day by day. How can these firms best help their clients?
- Should law firms pick a day and have everyone work from home to prepare and experience what a shutdown might look like in order to prepare adequately?
- What happens if a building gets closed? (The Federal government does not have this power but individual building owners could conceivably do this.)
- If personnel are asked to stay home do firms share in this loss with employees or will law firms have to absorb all costs?
This insightful article published by Popular Science shares insights about the epidemiology of COVID-19 compared to other life-impacting viruses and diseases.