Over the past two weeks, the world as we know it has been turned upside down. Schools across the country have closed, many businesses have been forced to shut their doors for the time being, and the vast majority of federal and state court proceedings have been canceled until further notice.
These events are unprecedented, and essentially unexpected. Hardly anyone saw this coming, and as a result very few businesses – including law firms – were prepared for the sudden change from business as usual.
If you’re anything like most lawyers, you may be wondering about the future of your law firm and its book of business. You’re no doubt trying to get your law firm running remotely as smoothly and as quickly as possible, all the while trying to figure out how to keep your firm afloat during these turbulent and uncertain times.
If you’re focused on getting your firm set up as a remote practice, we’ve got you covered. Make sure to check out our blog posts from the past week on setting up a remote firm and maintaining business continuity (post 1, post 2, post 3, and post 4). And if your primary concerns revolve around taking steps to position your firm for success and stability in the weeks to come, then make sure to read through the advice below.
Consider taking on new practice areas that are likely to be in demand due to COVID-19 including:
- Estate planning, including power of attorney, health care proxies, and basic wills (many people will need assistance creating these documents in the near future)
- Employment law (employers increasingly need guidance to help navigate COVID-19 issues such as FMLA issues)
- Bankruptcy(many people and companies will likely declare bankruptcy in the weeks an months to come)
- Divorce (living and working in confined spaces with spouses is, unfortunately, bound to negatively impact some marriages)
- Business law (business owners need assistance navigating the many issues presented by COVID-19, which affect many different aspects of their day-to-day business)
Try to close out pending cases:
- Opposing counsel might be open to a reasonable settlement since cases may grow stale and witnesses may disappear over time if courts remain closed indefinitely
- Reach out to insurance adjustors – there have been reports of insurance adjustors making more than reasonable offers to close out cases
- Your clients may also be amenable to settlement due to the change of circumstances
Work on your firm’s lead intake processes and its marketing plan:
- Use downtime to create a marketing plan
- Use downtime to create and implement a social media plan
- Use downtime to grow your firm’s already-existing social media accounts
- Use downtime to create marketing content
- Follow up on “dead leads” – but be aware of any restrictions in your state or county re: marketing during declarations of emergency (for example, New York prohibits telemarketing calls during states of emergency).
- Take advantage of e-signature tools to allow leads to more easily sign retainer agreements
- Create online intake forms in order to streamline your lead intake process
- Use video conferencing tools for initial consultations
Invest in software tools that will enable remote work:
- Take advantage of e-signature tools for documents
- Use video conferencing tools for meetings with colleagues and clients
- Automate more processes in your law firm using cloud-based legal software like law practice management software
Take steps to simplify bill payment for your clients:
- Provide clients with flexibility in making payments by extending due dates
- Accept online payments so clients can pay more easily and quickly
- Accept a variety of different types of payment including debit and credit card payments
- Allow clients to pay via payment plans (many law practice management software programs include the ability to create payments plans with automatic reminders)
Find ways to cut costs:
- Review your current marketing spend, since you may want to temporarily reduce spend for certain practice areas, such as landlord/tenant matters, given that the courts are shut down and many jurisdictions have stayed all eviction proceedings
- Look into canceling monthly parking fees at your office while working remotely
- Contact vendors about existing contracts to see if they will work with you to pause them or modify them
- Take advantage of the fact that you can now defer federal tax filings and payments, which have been automatically extended to July 15th
Seek financial help if you need it:
- Stay abreast of laws being passed to help small businesses at both the state and federal level
- See if you qualify for an SBA small business disaster relief loan
- Consider taking out a small business loan
- Check your insurance policies to see if coverage might be available (for example business interruption insurance) but make sure to carefully read all exclusions; submit a claim either way since you never know what the response will be and if it’s denied you can then begin the appeals process
Work on streamlining law firm processes:
- Create or update your firm’s client welcome package
- Create or update your firm’s closed case package
- Create a closed case “touch” communication plan for past clients so that you automate the process of regularly sending out, for example, holiday or birthday greetings
- Create and automate a standard intake process for your firm
- Explore the software tools your firm already uses to ensure you’re taking full advantage of them
- Consider setting up virtual law firm software training for your staff to ensure they fully understand and are fully taking advantage all the features offered
Catch up on your business reading list and CLEs:
- Many companies and bar associations are offering free online CLEs, so take advantage of them
- Invest in a few books for lawyers focused on technology competence and the business end of running your law firm such as: The E-Myth Attorney, Online Courts and the Future of Justice, Tomorrow’s Lawyers, Lawyer Forward: Finding Your Place in the Future of Law, Law Office on a Laptop, and The New Billable Hour: Bill More Hours, Be More Productive and Still Have Work Life Balance.
- Read a few general business books so you can learn how to run your law firm like the business that it is, such as: Traction, The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, and Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition.
Sign up for our April 2nd webinar to learn how to run your law firm remotely:
And last, but not least, make sure to join us on Thursday, April 2nd when MyCase presents How to Run Your Law Firm Remotely During COVID-19 at 11 AM PST / 2 PM EST.