Webinar Recap:
Reopening:
What Law Firms Need to Know


As states across the US lift restrictions on non-essential businesses and shelter in place orders, law firms are beginning to reopen their doors. But with public health concerns still looming, attorneys must exercise caution and adopt new operational protocols when repopulating their offices. In our recent webinar panel, attorneys Todd Spodek and Mark Metzger shared their approaches to reopening and resuming standard operations with a focus on the safety of their staff and clients.

Jump to a Topic

3:10 – What is the Status of Your Office as it Relates to Reopening?

The big question on everyone’s mind is whether or not they should reopen their physical offices, and if so, how to do so conscientiously. Mark and Todd reveal the state of their New York and Chicago offices with insight into their reopening plans for the foreseeable future.

8:55 – What is Your Ideal Scenario for Reopening?

With client and staff safety paramount to the continuity of your business, there are a host of factors to consider before fully repopulating your physical office(s). Here’s how firms erring on the side of caution are approaching their eventual reopening and as well as how they’re keeping their businesses fully operational and competitive in the meantime.

20:53 – What Are Your Plans for the Physical Workspace?

With real estate being a major operational expense for law firms — particularly during COVID-19 — attorneys are re-evaluating the way in which they utilize their office space to meet with clients and collaborate with staff. Find out what Mark and Todd are doing to safely prepare their offices and why downsizing physical space may be a wise decision for inner-city practices.

37:35 – What New Policies Will You Be Implementing In Your Office Upon Reopening?

Ongoing health and safety concerns have unearthed additional challenges when it comes to serving clients, collaborating with staff, and managing cases. Here’s what protocol attorneys are implementing in their firms to meet the “new normal” of practice management head-on with the wellbeing of staff and clients in mind.

39:55 – How Have Client Expectations Changed?

Legal clients, as it turns out, are far more resilient and adaptive to change than previously anticipated. Hear what Todd and Mark have to say about enhanced virtual interaction with clients and offering white-glove service despite restricted contact. 

49:26 – What Advice Would You Offer Firms Who Are Considering Reopening?

Clients and staff look to lawyers as leaders; that’s the dynamic of the relationship. Todd and Mark explain how to build partnerships and trust to support this dynamic in the context of reopening your office.

Presentation Slides

Transcript

Casey Patterson:

Hello everyone. My name is Casey. Welcome to our webinar on reopening. We’re so glad that you can join us. Today we’re joined by two attorneys who are at the forefront of what they’re doing to reopen, and we just want to interview them and figure out the steps they’re taking to ensure that their staff and clients are safe. With that, I’ll start with the purpose of the webinar. We want to provide you actionable insights, so actual things you can do to reopen your physical office with a focus on the safety of your staff and clients by interviewing a panel of managing partners. Really quickly, I wanted to mention that this webinar is sponsored by MyCase and put on by MyCase, I myself work for MyCase.

 

Casey Patterson:

It’s a practice management software that allows you to work from anywhere, so really important during these times and keep everything running smoothly in your back office, including billing, case management, document storage and management, client communications and all that good stuff. Both of our panelists use MyCase, so they might mention it on and off during the webinar. Briefly, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Casey. I’ve worked at MyCase for five years and I absolutely love my job mostly because I get to help attorneys and legal professionals run a better business, and especially in these times, it’s really rewarding to help firms not only survive but thrive. I’ll be hosting the webinar, being sure that we stay on task and on time.

 

Casey Patterson:

Let’s meet our panelists. First we have, Todd Spodek. Todd is a Managing Partner at his law firm, Spodek Law Group in New York. Mark who is a Managing Partner in his law firm, Law Office of Mark Metzger in Chicago. We were going to be joined by Al from Los Angeles, unfortunately, AL couldn’t be with us today due to an emergency, but we’ll sorely miss him and hope he can join if we decide to do this again. Quickly, I’ll introduce Todd. Todd’s based out of New York City. He practices criminal defense and matrimonial law. Really, a fun fact, he represented Anna Sorokin in the highly publicized trial in 2019 and soon he’ll be featured on Netflix, not him himself, but someone will play him, which is really fun.

 

Mark Metzger:

Brad Pitt.

 

Casey Patterson:

Brad Pitt. Yeah. Hi Todd, how are you doing?

 

Todd Spodek:

I’m doing great. Thanks for having me Casey. Hi to everyone. Mark, nice to see you again as well.

 

Mark Metzger:

Same here, Todd.

 

Casey Patterson:

Awesome. Next is Mark. Mark is based out of Chicago. He practices a lot of different areas of law, business planning, estate planning, elder law, and real estate law. Fun fact, he’s an Atticus practice advisor, so he knows a lot about how to run a firm efficiently and has a lot of great thoughts on reopening. Welcome, Mark.

 

Mark Metzger:

Thank you. Good to see you, Casey.

 

Casey Patterson:

Good to see you too.

 

Mark Metzger:

Todd, always good to spend some time with you.

 

Todd Spodek:

Thank you.

 

Casey Patterson:

Though Al won’t be joining us, these two, as Mark pointed out recently are not shrinking violets. They have plenty of great conversation to add so I’m really looking forward to a good discussion. We are talking about reopening, to reopen, to not reopen. If you do reopen, what do you do? If you don’t reopen, what do you do? Let’s just start off by talking about the state of your office as it relates to reopening. We’ll start with you Todd.

 

Todd Spodek:

Sure. All of our offices are in New York City or the greater New York area since New York is still closed, but physical offices are closed. We’re not permitted to open and clients aren’t permitted to visit us there. We go once a week to pick up the mail and packages and whatnot, but everyone is working successfully remotely. It’s going phenomenally well, partially due to MyCase and the ability to access everything online. We’ve sort of transitioned at least for the time being to this remote workforce. Our meetings are all online and everything is done virtually and it’s going well. There are obviously hiccups along the way, but it’s been a positive experience for everyone involved so far. We’re not planning to open up our physical offices probably until September, October.

 

Casey Patterson:

Okay. September, October. Good. Mark, how is your office doing as it relates to reopening?

 

Mark Metzger:

We’re in a slightly different position. Illinois, while it had in the Chicago metropolitan area some rough go with COVID, it wasn’t anywhere near what Todd experienced in his metropolitan area. As a result of that, Illinois is in a phased opening process. As of the first Monday in June, businesses are allowed to reopen with social distancing in place. They encourage if you’re in a retail setting, stores for example, that you arrange for pickups and deliveries whenever possible and that you restrict the number of people that are in the space. The owner of the building that our office is in has expressed a decided preference for not having the public in the building for at least a good another chunk of time. We’re currently thinking that might be the end of summer or even right after labor day.

 

Mark Metzger:

What we’re doing by way of an opening is, we’re trying to figure out as a team and I’m having the conversation with my entire team to discuss what does reopening look like for us in two phases. The first phase is, us going back to the office with some degree of regularity. Right now we’re doing exactly what Todd described. Two to three times a week, somebody goes in and picks up the mail and passes it around. Other than that, and then picking things up and dropping things off, we’re basically not at the office. There’s an exception to that, that we’ve worked out in the last two weeks that I’ll describe to you in a moment, because part of our practice involves needing to have some client, but we’ve managed to solve most of our need to spend time with clients in two different ways.

 

Mark Metzger:

But we want to think through the reopening process as a process that first makes the team feel safe about being there. Their current thinking is that having less than the whole team there every day is a better way to phase in. Maybe half of us there on Mondays and Wednesdays and half of us there on Tuesday and Thursday, and then maybe nobody there on Friday, for example. That’s actually being actively discussed. Now the two things that we’ve had to accommodate in our practice, where we still had to have some interaction with our clients, our real estate practice needs a way to get documents in particular deeds signed. We’ve managed to get electronic signatures approved for everything else, but not surprisingly, the title deeds companies, were not interested in deeds that were not wedding signed.

 

Mark Metzger:

By the same token, the buyers that have home loans, the lenders were not interested in anything but a wedding signature on the note of the mortgage. We’ve largely built electronic processes to get the closings done and to get the original documents to the closing for recording purposes. We worked that out through a couple of different methods, some of which involved the antique process of FedEx, and some of them involve us coordinating meetings or document drop-offs with people who are getting it notarized at UPS stores, at the post office, at their bank and whatever else and they’re getting the original documents to us, for us to transmit around.

 

Mark Metzger:

The other thing that we’ve had to do is for our state planning practice, while our state has a temporary, permitted use for remote online notarization, I don’t know any lawyers that are perfectly happy doing it because the burdens, the steps you have to follow, the need to keep a video recording of that for a minimum of seven years and then have to use wording that’s still, nobody is completely certain exactly how you write the wording on the document and what the words need to be. I think all of us feel like that’s just going to lead to problems with litigation over state planning documents later and so nobody really wants to do that unless you absolutely positively have to and it’s the only way.

 

Mark Metzger:

The way we came up with going around this is, we built a drive-through signing process, where once the documents are done, we’ve met with the clients either on the phone or on video or both to design their estate plan, to get it built in the way that they want it. Then we literally have them drive to the office and we put people on either side of their car and we pass the documents through the car, getting them signed, and getting them notarized and assembled back into their estate planning book and it’s working brilliantly.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s awesome. Okay, great. You’ve heavily adapted to working remotely, to not having client interaction, even so far as developing a whole new process, a whole new really service and offering, which is okay. That’s good to hear. I want to hear more about that later. Okay. As you both think about reopening in the coming months, I want to know what your ideal scenario for reopening is. What are the criteria under which you would feel comfortable reopening and what would that reopening look like? Again, we’ll start with you, Todd.

 

Todd Spodek:

Sure. I think one of the things that affects all attorneys practicing in major metropolitan areas is that a lot of people are commuting by train. For us, until the subways reopen and both our staff, potential clients, adversaries are more comfortable commuting around the city, it’s going to be an issue. Even, I feel comfortable going back into the office, the general consensus amongst people is that until there’s some improvement with the subways and overcrowding and things of that nature, people are reluctant to go in there. Certainly that’s one aspect to it. For us, the big part of our office is conference rooms and meeting clients so at the end of the day, a lot of potential new clients reach out to us and they want that in-person meeting, they want to connect with us in person.

 

Todd Spodek:

No matter how good the technology is, it’s not the same thing. It’s not the same thing as having a cup of coffee together or just being in the same room, talking about these intimate, sensitive aspects of their life. We’ve all taken steps to improve our virtual offices. We’ve upgraded our individual’s equipment so that we can have more productive Zoom and Google Meet videos and things of that nature. I think it’s going to take a while for us to phase back in. I don’t think it’s going to happen quickly even as New York slowly reopens. But I think Mark, is spot on in, you have to figure out what’s right for your clientele and the best way to sort of deal with it.

 

Todd Spodek:

We’ve even gone so far as some of our clients who really want to meet and talk in person, we’ve arranged to meet them at a park and sort of walk in the park together and we’re not close and we’re not on top of each other, but at least then there’s that personal connection. They don’t feel like they’re going through this alone because there’s nothing like dealing with the pandemic, the civil rights issues, the rioting, the looting, and then knowing you may have an upcoming trial or a hearing or something weighing on your mind on top of it, it’s overwhelming for a lot of clients. I think things are going to have to improve a considerable amount before we all could reconnect in the office.

 

Casey Patterson:

Okay. Thanks for that. For those clients who do want to meet in person, I’m curious about what policies you have when you do meet that person and how you kind of enforce them. Because I know, at least for me personally, if I set up a socially distance meeting with friends or relatives or whatever, it’s really hard to keep that just because human nature makes us want to get closer and talk. How do you navigate that line with clients and make sure that that does happen?

 

Todd Spodek:

Right. We have wonderful parks in New York. We have Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Essentially what I do is, I tell the clients who want to meet, and keep in mind, these are existing clients, so these are the people we do know. I say, “Look, I’m comfortable meeting you in the park and taking a walk around, there’s a three-mile loop in the park that we can take a nice leisurely walk. We don’t have to go the whole thing, but I’ll wear a mask and obviously, you should wear a mask and we’ll deal with it.”

 

Todd Spodek:

My experience has been that they enjoy that because, one, I’m making the effort and two, I’m sort of leading them in saying, “Look, this is what I’m comfortable with. You can join me, and if you’re not, certainly we could do it over video,” but they want to do this. They appreciate that effort. It’s worked out well, I’ve met about maybe five or six different clients for over an hour each. We walk, we talk and it’s rewarding. It’s rewarding for them. It’s rewarding for me.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. Thanks for sharing that. Mark, how are you thinking about reopening? What’s your ideal scenario for your office?

 

Mark Metzger:

Well, since the question says ideal, I’m going to take that literally. For me, an ideal situation would be, we either get a vaccine or a definitive treatment then I’m not worried anymore. Neither of those is realistic in the short run. In fact, well, I don’t tend to be a sky is falling type of person. I have read the 1918, 1919 stuff extensively about the Spanish Flu and I think we’re following the exact same pattern that we did then, and that we’re likely to see a big spike in the fall, through some combination of people just saying, I’ve had it, I’m done, let the chips fall where they may, people infecting each other with abandon to… our politicians right now don’t seem to be particularly interested in trying to contain this, they wish to get elected at this point.

 

Mark Metzger:

I think that we’re headed for another round of whatever we just went through in the fall. What I’ve been trying to do is to figure out, what have we learned that worked? What have we learned that didn’t work, that we can now get back into shape? If I’m right and the worst happens and we’re going to get another spike in September, October, we’re four months ahead of that right now so I’m asking myself, what would I do if I knew last December that we were going to be shut down in March and April and what can I roll forward and make work for us? I’ll give an example of that at the end of this, because I want to loop off of Todd’s answer, there were some questions that some people were asking about having folks in the office and-

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah, please answer.

 

Mark Metzger:

… masks allowed. Let me explain that geographically, it varies. What Todd is experiencing is, New York, in particular in New York City is still locked down. Offices are not permitted to be open except for very, very limited exceptions. It’s not a matter of they can come in and they can be in masks, that’s just not an option for Todd. Right now if he wants to meet with people, it’s got to be outside and in a non-enclosed area. The masks are not required in that context, I think it’s wise for people to do that. I think the way Todd said it was brilliant, he’s setting an example for them to let them know through his actions and his planning, what he thinks is reasonable for them. He’s essentially saying to them, I’m going to provide for your health, I’d appreciate it if you provide for mine. That’s the essence of his message, it’s really well done.

 

Mark Metzger:

In my area, offices are permitted to be open, my particular office, the building manager does not yet want outside people in there. The way that he’s accomplishing that is making it clear that if we have someone who comes in, who is subsequently found to be infected, we get the cleaning bill for the building. He hasn’t prohibited. He’s just said, “I’m going to make it economically foolish for you to do that.” At the moment, we’re abiding by that. That’s my answer to the recorded pieces of that. Now Casey, I lost my train of thought. There was something that I said, I’d come back to.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yes. You were talking about, well-

 

Mark Metzger:

Oh, I know what it was.

 

Casey Patterson:

… a couple of things. Yeah.

 

Mark Metzger:

In the vein of what have we learned now that we can apply and roll forward.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yes. If you were… yeah, in December, if you knew, what would you have told yourself? Yeah.

 

Mark Metzger:

One of the things that we did, and this is by no means unique to us, I’m aware of other lawyers and other places that are doing this exact same thing, one of the ways that we tried to shift our marketing was we said, first of all, we didn’t think it was useful to engage in marketing that frankly, every vendor you have dealt with in the last three months or last three years has done for the last three months, which is they’ve reminded you they’re there and they’re COVID ready. Nobody’s reading those. You instantly throw them away because it’s all the same garbage. I decided that it really probably wasn’t going to be productive to remind people that we’re available to provide these legal services, that just to me sort of tone deaf.

 

Mark Metzger:

What we chose to do was to go in some different directions to just try to become a service and to poke our brand around that service so that we would get the collateral benefit of people having warm thoughts about whatever it is we were doing and associate that with us. That was the kind of indirect marketing that we chose to do. We’ve done a bunch of things in that regard. I’ll give you some examples. The most particular one, I mean, since this is put on MyCase, I can tell you that we’ve we rolled something out that is entirely based on MyCase tools. What we rolled out was an offer for frontline medical responders, whether they are EMTs or physicians or nurses or medical technicians at hospitals or medical centers. If you don’t have core essential estate planning documents in place, a simple will, power of attorney for healthcare, power of attorney for property, we will do it for free, not for your whole family, just for you.

 

Mark Metzger:

What we did is built an intake tool with MyCase, so that the process works exactly like this, somebody receives the flyer, they send an email to an address. A human being gets that email, enters their first name, their last name and their email address into MyCase. It sends them an engagement letter that they then sign using the digital signature tools that are built into MyCase. When that comes back, they get sent a link to an intake sheet that was designed in MyCase that asks them, I’m going to say maybe 15 or 16 questions that help us get the data that we need to prepare the simple estate planning documents. Now, I need to be really clear to the extent that there are estate planning lawyers listening to this. This is not a full featured estate plan. This does not deal with every iteration of course. This is the classic simple will.

 

Mark Metzger:

Lawyers that do estate planning know that… there’s a joke that we all tell each other, which is that everybody who calls the office just needs a simple will because that’s all they [inaudible 00:18:47], I just need a simple will. They have no idea what a simple will is, they just don’t want to pay a lot of money and that’s their polite way of saying that. But we’ve actually designed the simple will. There are no decisions to make, it’s one beneficiary. If you name multiple beneficiaries, because you have multiple children, it’s equal shares. We make it very clear in the offer, this is not a substitute for a full featured estate plan, it is meant to close the gap between someone that has nothing and putting themselves in danger.

 

Mark Metzger:

The intake sheet gathers the data that we need, it merges, in MyCase when it comes back to generate a simple will, a power of attorney for healthcare, a power of attorney for property, we schedule a drive through signing. We bought plastic clipboards from Amazon that can be easily washed down. There’s one document, three documents, one document on each of three clipboards. They get passed through the car. We sign, we notarize, they drive away with the documents and they’re done.

 

Casey Patterson:

Wow.

 

Mark Metzger:

That’s a bit slow, where we spend more time outside of the car because of the fact that we’re using the tool to build the documents for us. Another indirect marketing thing that we did is I did some reading and I discovered that the brain research says, it is not possible to hold negative emotions in your head and positive emotions at the same time. Things like fear and anxiety can get canceled out if you start to ask yourself, what can I be grateful for today? We bought five minute journals, which is a one page a day journal that simply has a couple of prompts that ask you to try to think about what could happen today that would make today great? At the end of the day, what did happen today that made it great? It’s a simple set of questions of gratitude because it cancels out the stress and the anxiety.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. Thanks for sharing those steps that you would take. I think we’ll get more into how you’re actually preparing for the next phase too, but those are good to… I mean, practical ways, you’re talking about practical tips to make your life a little bit better, so that’s great. Thanks Mark. Okay. This next question is a little bit difficult since neither of you are gung ho back in the office yet. But I know that Todd, you’ve made some adjustments to your physical or will be making adjustments to your physical work situation. Mark, I’d love to hear from you too but Todd, why don’t you just start off, what are your plans for your office?

 

Todd Spodek:

Sure. Office space in New York is expensive and a big part of our monthly expenses is the rent for all of the offices. What we’ve come to realize is at least for the next say, six months until things rapidly improve, one, our attorneys aren’t going to be working out of the office. Two, they certainly don’t need individual offices at all the locations. Three, we don’t know what the situation will be with clients coming back to the office. What we’re doing is we are reevaluating our current physical office space and creating more of a space that has a conference room built for meetings and then offices that can be rotated where essentially, like let’s just say the two people come into the office, maybe they’ll use those offices for Monday and then two other people will come in on Tuesday so everyone’s not at the same place at the same time. Plus, it gives those who have children the benefit of having more time at home, less time commuting, avoiding the trains and this and that.

 

Todd Spodek:

Until there’s a cure or until there’s treatment, like Mark said, this is the reality we’re living in. It doesn’t matter if all of the cities rapidly open up, people are going to have concerns. In some ways we’re fortunate that this has become the new norm. There’s 145 people just participating in this live Zoom and people are comfortable doing video conferencing. I’ve done hearings with court. It’s not ideal and it’s not perfect, but it’s not going to be the same oddity that it once was, people are comfortable with this. We’re going to try and reduce our overhead for all of the offices which potentially could reduce the legal fees to our clients, can potentially increase the legal salaries to our staff. There’s a lot of benefits to doing that. We’ll still always have physical space at every location, but not nearly the extent that we used to have.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah. Really briefly, I believe your office is fully on kind of cloud based technology. When you’re talking about working part time in an office, part time at home, I know a lot of firms don’t have that kind of flexibility. What would your advice be to them to be able to rotate in staff and have that flexibility?

 

Todd Spodek:

Yeah. I mean, I think that all firms have to invest in the technology now. I don’t know how anyone doesn’t use a case management software and this is a truly unbiased opinion. I don’t work for MyCase or anything, but it just seems insane to me if someone is not using something like MyCase because it allows everything to be done in an organized, remote fashion. We all have access from our laptops. We all have access from our phones. It’s a game changer. What we’re doing is, we’re just investing in better laptops for all the staff members. This way, the video capabilities are better. They can Zoom and it’s clear and it doesn’t break up. I think that in the future and what I started to look at is, we’re probably going to transition into a firm that has a outsource company scan all the mail for us and then distribute it.

 

Todd Spodek:

Because, as we look towards the future, as we plan ahead, we really need the office space for two things, one, for all client meetings and two, for teamwork for trials and legal matters that require us all being there together in like a war room experience. But the more we could do to automate the process, the more we could do to work remotely, the better equipped we are for the future and it’s a better service for our clients. I think clients will appreciate the fact that the lawyer or the paralegal from a firm can meet them in their location, pull up their laptop and have everything, every file, every invoice, every document.

 

Todd Spodek:

It’s a more enjoyable experience, you could cater the service to the client. You could go to the client’s place of business. You can meet in the park. We’re not in the same world. We once were where everything revolved around the giant file cabinets and the conference room and the free coffee at a law firm. It’s a different world. The more we can think ahead, the better prepared we will be and the better we’ll be able to serve our clients.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. You just brought up a question that I want to tag you both back in on, but first I go to Mark for what your plans are for the physical workspace.

 

Mark Metzger:

We’re a little blessed in the sense that the… I just got a call to my cell that the computer tried to answer so hopefully, you still see me, right?

 

Casey Patterson:

Yes.

 

Mark Metzger:

Okay. Yeah, these days you live in a world of modern technology where everything’s linked together. We are a little blessed in the sense that real estate costs for offices are considerably less for us than they are for Todd. He’s in probably among the top five or six most expensive office, real estate markets in the world. We’re not, thankfully. We have the luxury of having… everybody has their own separate workspace, anyway. The only communal stuff is hallways, or to the extent you go see somebody and you’re standing some distance from them talking. We don’t really need to physically alter anything. We will have some processes in place when the clients start to come back and visit about how we’re going to wipe down high touch services on either a rotating basis or certainly on a client just left, we now need to clean the room basis.

 

Mark Metzger:

I talked earlier about the drive through signing ceremonies. One of the things we did is, I bought a box that looks like a cigar case, and we put a bunch of… we have branded pens that we’ve always used for things in the office, we sanitized the whole bunch and we put them in there. Then we offer the box to somebody and they choose a pen out of the box and it’s a clean pen that they can then use for the process. Those kinds of things I think are still going to go on, but we’re not facing some of the same challenges that Todd is, and that’s just a virtue of the way the real estate market works in my geography versus his.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yup. You mentioned in our pre-meeting that you have your staff doing some of the planning around this and kind of delegating that to them. Why did you make that decision? Can you walk us through your thought process?

 

Mark Metzger:

I think that, as I said earlier, to me, there’s two processes when you look at opening the offices, there’s two things to consider, two different tracks. The first is, what makes the team feel comfortable about coming back together again? Then the second one is, how do we feel about adding people into the mix who are not in our little bubble that we spend our time with, who, we don’t know where they’ve been and whether they are, they aren’t sick or whatever, or have been. I decided that the best way to make the team feel comfortable with feeling safe was for them to describe what would make them comfortable. How could we design a phase back that they could generate some comfort with that’s where the discussion about why not half of us come Monday, Tuesday, the other half come Tuesday, Thursday. Monday, Wednesday, and then Tuesday, Thursday. Then we just don’t have anybody there on Friday.

 

Mark Metzger:

We’re [inaudible 00:28:19] slowly getting used to spending more time in the office and some of the efficiencies that come from being able to be together and hand things off to each other can be restored. To directly answer your question, that whole thing was born out of my belief that if they had a say in the process, their degree of comfort with what we chose to do would be greater. Until we have some better understanding of the way this thing works and treatment and vaccination possibilities and so forth, I don’t know that I’m comfortable telling people, you must do it this way, because what we’re doing now works at least 85 to 90% as well as not.

 

Casey Patterson:

Right. Right. Okay, great. The question I wanted to circle back to, and this was born out of your thoughts Todd was, I’ve been working with attorneys for five years, I [crosstalk 00:29:09] that doesn’t make me an expert, but… what’s that?

 

Todd Spodek:

I said, I feel bad for you.

 

Casey Patterson:

I know, I love it. But what I do know about attorneys is that they’re not the first to jump on change. Change is not the… they’re not the high tech or the first adopters of really anything. My question is, with this push, with COVID pushing attorneys to adopt technology, you guys are kind of on the higher adopting end of the curve, where you do have a lot of technology, are more comfortable but for those who aren’t, do you believe that this is a good push that will force them forward and force them to adopt more efficiencies? Or do you think it’s more damaging and will cause more harm? Because even you Todd, you’re adopting even more efficiencies with like having your mail scanned and downsizing your office. What are your thoughts on that push toward technology for law firms and what do you think, is that good or bad?

 

Todd Spodek:

Sure. I think it’s phenomenal. I don’t think it could take the place of in-person contact, but you can make your law firm operate very efficiently, very cost effective and seamless experience for the clients. Honestly, I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the attorneys who have clients who are constantly like, “Hey, can I get a copy of this? Can I get a copy of this? Do you have this letter? Do you have this motion?” By scanning everything and having a system in place, how you’re going to scan it, who’s going to scan it, where the original goes, all of those things, you’re creating a more positive experience for your clients so they’re going to appreciate it. I could tell you right now there’s inertia with clients. They get used to my case. They get used to dealing with your firm in an efficient way, and they’re going to want that experience for the next legal matter they have.

 

Todd Spodek:

We’ve been lucky in that throughout this pandemic and for everything that’s going on in New York and all over the country, we’ve stayed in touch with clients from years ago, with current clients and they like the experience they have with our law firm and they want to replicate it for their other legal matters. What has happened is we’ve build a lot of goodwill in our own referral circles and with other lawyers where someone will come to us and say, “Listen, you did a great job on this, I’m looking to buy a house,” and that’s not something we do, so I’ll put them in touch with another lawyer, a lawyer who appreciates the referrals.

 

Todd Spodek:

The client loves the fact that this is someone I believe will help them and they’re going to go with them. Hopefully they have MyCase or some system like that so that this efficiency continues. They’re getting the same service and that’s really important. I think lawyers can really benefit by taking this time and making strategic decisions about how their firm’s going to operate. I do not think going back to what Mark said, advertising about your business being open and you’re here to help, it’s all wrong. It’s the wrong vibe. This is not the time. Lawyers make a decent living, no matter what. When you’re looking at the financial picture of the world, lawyers are doing okay.

 

Todd Spodek:

Don’t worry about the money right now, the money will come. Worry about setting yourself up, becoming a trusted advisor, creating partnerships, becoming more efficient, and the clients are going to reach back out to you. They’re going to say, “Hey, I need a will. I need this. I need that.” You can build other sources of business by having a more efficient shop. To go back to my case, they just created this feature, which I didn’t even get to talk to about Casey, but I love is that you can create these lead boxes on your websites so the lead directly goes into MyCase and you can manage it. This is brilliant. Now, people can contact us for whatever reason, we could track the lead inside our system and then we can refer them out. We can track the referrals. I mean, it’s a great way to build goodwill. I think everyone needs to be using that immediately.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. That’s really interesting too, about the client expectations changing because I mean, with the adoption of video conferencing, the need to have a more virtual relationship with your attorney, the client side is going to change too, if they walk into an office and it’s filled with papers.

 

Todd Spodek:

Yeah. I mean, the way I explain it to my staff, when we talk about these things is, in New York and I’m sure universally a lot of medical facilities now have online, similar programs to MyCase, where you can make appointments, you can message your doctor, you can see all your records, your bills. That breeds a sense of security. You log on and you see everything perfect, that’s labeled perfect. You’re like, you know what? I could trust these people with my medical care, I feel comfortable. Contrast that with like the antiquated lawyer in an office filled with paper, not having a filing system, not scanned, not remote, you’re automatically starting at a disadvantage. It’s like going to Apple, why do people love buying iPhones and Macs? Because they go in there and the process is seamless from the minute you walk into the store, you can’t spend five minutes there without buying something, which is so perfect. It’s crazy.

 

Casey Patterson:

It’s true.

 

Todd Spodek:

That’s how lawyers need to think. You need to integrate all of that technology to your advantage. For lawyers who are solo or small law firms, the price point is negligible. It’s not like… I know lawyers who are still with the servers, it’s like it’s crazy. You can have all of this for nothing. I mean, it’s really quite inexpensive. MyCase alone has the e-signature now, has the CRM. Outside of a scanner, I’m not exactly sure what much more you need to build a robust forward-looking law firm.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. Great feedback. Mark, what are your thoughts on the same question?

 

Mark Metzger:

I think Todd said it brilliantly. In fact, the only thing I could add to that is, I was also… when he started talking about the new lead tracking feature, that was actually in my head and then he said it. The one thing he didn’t mention, it’s also a relatively new feature and for the people who are watching this, I mean, understand that Todd and I are not MyCase studies, we’re just guys that use it and it really works very, very well for us and so we like to talk about how we use it.

 

Mark Metzger:

If you haven’t tried the email integration and you’re using Outlook Mail or Microsoft 365 Mail or Gmail, any of these major email infrastructures, you can integrate it automatically with MyCase. When your team is dispersed, as mine is right now, as Todd’s is right now, if you’re processing your email inside of MyCase, you get to associate the emails that apply to a matter, to an individual matter, which means everybody else on your team can see them, which is freaking amazing.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. Awesome. Just briefly, do you think that the technology push that’s happening for law firms right now is a good or bad thing?

 

Mark Metzger:

It can’t be anything but good. Todd made a great point in talking about the trust that came from the medical community starting to do this. We’re going to get the same benefit by doing this. There’s no doubt that if you try to have a more profitable, better running, leaner infrastructure, you can’t get there in the practice of law without investments in technology. In these days it just… I’m a geek of the first order. I mean, I’m the kind of guy that used to build my own computers. I wrote my own software to go through law school. I’ve worked for… I’ve sold commercial software, I’ve sold computers. I’ve done it all from a technological play thing point of view. It doesn’t make any sense to have your own server and try to keep that thing up to date and keep the security patches on it. Give that to somebody else, get rid of it.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. That’s awesome feedback. Thank you both. Okay. Quickly, because I want to make sure we’re ending on time. Actually, if you guys don’t mind, I’m going to skip this question. I think we’ve covered it a little bit.

 

Todd Spodek:

Sure.

 

Casey Patterson:

Mark, do you mind if I skip this one?

 

Mark Metzger:

That’s fine.

 

Casey Patterson:

Okay, great. What new policies will you be implementing in your physical office upon returning? Todd, you’re going to have… oops, I’m sorry, you’re going to have your new office space. Mark, you’re going to have your existing office space. You talked a little bit about what you’ll do, but could you just dive into the new policies you’ll be implementing.

 

Mark Metzger:

For me it’s real simple. We’re going to have some specific policies about getting [inaudible 00:37:59] cleaned with regularity. We’re going to get places the clients visit cleaned up immediately after, we’re going to publicize to the clients what we’re doing in both of those regards so that they feel comfortable when they’re entering the space. I think for the time being, I’m going to ask the team that when they’re in the office and they’re not able to do… if they’re going to work in their own private space, they don’t have to have their mask on, but if they’re going to be interacting with each other, I think they should. Other than that, it’s not going to be that much different.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yeah, great. Todd, what about you?

 

Todd Spodek:

Yeah. I mean, it’s up in the air to some degree because we don’t know how things are going to progress. The most important thing to me to be honest is my staff’s comfort level. When this all started, everyone was completely freaked out. No one wanted to do anything. Now slowly, people are getting together more. We all got together last night and hung out and sort of had an opportunity to catch up in person. I’m open to when they reopen the office, have everyone come in and have that rotating schedule I talked about, but at the end of the day, I want them to be comfortable.

 

Todd Spodek:

A lot of the people who work with us have family members who are older, they have young children, they have other competing interests so I want to be able to balance everything. I want to make work and our clientele a priority, but I understand that they can’t do that until their personal life is in order. I think it’s really like a week by week decision. We’ll analyze it, obviously all the things that Mark mentioned about cleaning and making sure everyone’s comfortable. But I think just to lead by example and that’s how I’m trying to do it with my staff and certainly that’s how I’m trying to do it with the clientele.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. Okay. Before we get to our final question, we’ve talked a little bit about client expectations, Todd you’ve mentioned going on walks with clients, Mark, obviously you’ve had whole new processes put in place with drive through. How have clients been reacting to those? Are they giving you feedback about what they would like to see or you know, how their expectations have changed of attorneys? What are your thoughts there? We’ll start with Todd.

 

Todd Spodek:

Sure. I think that my clientele has started from a very bad place. They are going through a divorce or a criminal case, so they’re sort of overwhelmed and I don’t think the physical office space and meeting there is important longterm, but in the beginning it really is. I mean, they really do want that in person contact because it’s like partial therapy and someone being a counselor for them. I have tried to make it easy. Like I said, I’ve tried to accommodate the best way I can, we have all the technology, I offer to meet in person and I let them know what I’m comfortable with and they appreciate that and they like that. I think that once about a time, certainly in New York and I’m sure in a lot of other cities or towns, you had this idea that all of the lawyers had this large office and it was really impressive.

 

Todd Spodek:

That was like part of the shtick. That was part of the whole thing that you would go there and you may have a coffee or something. It’s really nice. I think the hospitality aspect is important, and I think it’ll always be important, meaning if you want clients to come into your space and be comfortable, but I think the dynamic is changing and people are not going to be sort of dissuaded by doing things virtually or meeting in a conference room. Or I just don’t think those traditional consultations are going to continue forever. People are going to still need them, but I think the firm is going to allocate resources differently. For example, instead of spending all of the money on giant conference rooms and luxury dining rooms and all that sort of stuff, I think that firms may make more remote offices so clients don’t have to travel as much, particularly in New York where everyone’s on public transportation.

 

Todd Spodek:

Now that everyone is so comfortable and used to this I think it’s worthwhile investing in the technology to have large online meetings where everyone is crystal clear, the audio is crystal clear. I think that’s more important than just spending more money on the office space, although, at least in Manhattan and in New York city, I think there’ll be some deals to be had as things are not looking too bright in the real estate market.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s fascinating though, the kind of glamorous, I mean, I have an idea of a New York City attorney’s office in the head of a very glamorous, pristine and if that’s not available, how do you have that same level of hospitality like you were saying? I mean, I can think of a few things, sending someone lunch via some DoorDash or something or other creative solutions.

 

Todd Spodek:

What we’ve done and it’s been really helpful for us and I think it will be helpful for a lot of people is, we’ve tried to resolve clients and potential clients issues. People who have had housing issues, we’ve created a partnership with a company called Blueground that has month to month furnished apartments available in major cities. People who are going through divorces or criminal case, where there’s an order of protection, we can now give them an option of a place to stay and we have a direct contact there and it’s very nice.

 

Casey Patterson:

Wow.

 

Todd Spodek:

Yeah, during this pandemic with everything that’s going on with COVID and then with all the civil rights issues, we created a partnership with a company called Crisis Text Line. It’s a free service where you could text the number and speak to a crisis counselor immediately. There’s no charge and you could talk about whatever it is and they try to calm you down or at least bring you to a better place. What I have found is that, again, I have not focused on the sales and business aspects for this period of time, I focus more on… I don’t want to just sound too bullsh*t and say, giving back but just providing resources for our clients and potential clients. The goodwill that is generated, far outweighs any sale, far outweighs anything else. These are people now who are like brand ambassadors, just like Mark’s doing with the first responders, we did something similar with uncontested divorces.

 

Todd Spodek:

These are people who are going to remember. These are people who are going to tell everyone they know about this experience and that is going to create business. There’s just no way, there’s no way it won’t. When they come to you and say, “Hey, I have this will I need, and I can refer them to an estate attorney who could do it, that estate attorney is going to appreciate it, and he’s going to refer business. That’s how this all works. I speak to a lot of people bout this but I really think lawyers should and all businesses should focus for right now on those kinds of avenues to help sustain the business and not so much on just the account billables and the account receivables and all of that. I think you could do other things which are going to pay dividends. That’s what we’ve been doing and trying to do.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. That’s so good. Mark, what are your thoughts on this?

 

Mark Metzger:

One of the things that’s interesting to me is a pattern that we were seeing in our office, and I asked two of my coaching groups that I lead, what they were seeing and they were seeing the exact same thing. I want to reveal this to people that aren’t realizing this, or aren’t tracking it.

 

Casey Patterson:

Yes, please.

 

Mark Metzger:

The reality is, the tire kickers have gone away. What we’re all discovering is that we’re closing the overwhelming majority of the inquiries that we get, because nobody’s just kind of taking a feeler out because of the hassle of engaging in a meeting that they’ve only got so many video meetings they could schedule or so many phone calls they could have in a day, the clients are not going out and apparently meeting with half a dozen lawyers trying to figure out which one to hire. They’re doing preliminary work online, I think to figure out who they might want to meet with.

 

Mark Metzger:

Our close ratio has gone through the roof since this happened, which says to me, and my group members are reporting the same thing, we think what’s happening is people are motivated when they’re making the initial inquiry in the first place and they’re easier to close because they’ve made a decision to do the work that they want to get done. It’s still obviously a bit of a black box as to how they’re making the decision about who to meet with. Certainly there’s going to be some fine tuning that we’re all going to need to do to make sure that we’re getting our message to the right people. But I’m now seeing internet leads closing at the same rate that I get hot leads from professional referral sources, which have historically always been slammed dunks.

 

Casey Patterson:

Wow.

 

Mark Metzger:

Now I’m getting cold leads from the internet that I’m slam dunking because I think that people are just not in a mood to tire kick because their expectations have changed, there’s no physical office to go to. They’ve just decided, I’m going to hire the first one that seems to make sense and [crosstalk 00:47:20].

 

Casey Patterson:

Well, you mentioned that referrals are a big part of your business in general, but that you have asked a certain question to discover if people are referring and it’s been successful. With those cold leads that come through the internet, you actually find out later that they were a referral. Can you share about that question that you ask?

 

Mark Metzger:

One of the things that we make a point of asking when a new lead comes in and we don’t know where it came from is, we don’t say, how did you find us? Because if you ask that, they will always report the last thing that they did, which was always internet. Then we had this giant list of internet and I said, “Well, but where?” I mean, I think it’s bizarre that people go to Yelp for lawyers, but they do. I mean, to me that’s a place you go when you’re mad at your waitress, when you get a cold appetizer. But we wanted to get more refinement on that and so the question that we ultimately came up with and what I’ve now coached my group members to ask is, who can we thank for making you aware of us? Who can we thank for making you aware of us?

 

Mark Metzger:

Because what that forces them to do is to think back in their search process to say, “Oh well, so and so told me about you.” That then allows us to more effectively know what part of our marketing is working and what’s not. I encourage you to ask that question. It’s critical to know where these people came from. If you’re vague about the question, the answer you get is always these days is going to be internet. You’ve got to find a way to get down deeper and for us, the question who can we thank for making you aware of us has been a game changer in terms of allowing us to figure out what part of our marketing is working so we can pour fertilizer on that and do more.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s excellent. That goes back to Todd’s point about focusing on the client experience so that those referrals do come in and then you can go back and thank that other client. Okay, great. We are going to have one last question, but we are going to take questions at the end, just a couple of questions from the audience. If you have a question, please put it in the chatbox in the Q&A and I will go through those after this last question, which is, what advice would you offer to firms who are considering reopening? Obviously, there are all different States are reopening, different literal States, cities, et cetera. But in general, what advice would you offer? Todd, we’ll go with you first.

 

Todd Spodek:

I mean, I think I’d go back to, the clients are looking to lawyers as leaders and they’re looking to the lawyer to navigate whatever their legal issue is. Whether it’s a divorce, a probate matter, civil litigation, that’s the dynamic of the relationship. It’s important to be strong for them at all times. What I mentioned before about us trying to provide partnerships that could service them in other areas of their life, that builds this relationship, where they know they could come to Spodek Law Group and get help in whatever area.

 

Todd Spodek:

That is really important because that’s a valuable dynamic to have with potential clients. Those are clients who refer people to you, those are people who go online and write positive reviews about you, and those are the good clients you want. I would say that all lawyers should consider reopening their offices whenever it’s safe to do so and make sure that their staff is comfortable or whoever they’re working with, whether it’s one person or 20 people, make sure that they’re comfortable, make sure that their life’s are under control outside of the workplace, because they’re not going to give your clients that white-glove service unless you care about what’s going on in their personal life.

 

Todd Spodek:

I would make sure that obviously, you’re meeting in a space that’s comfortable and spacious enough so that people aren’t on top of each other. I would make sure that the clients are comfortable coming in. For example, you may want to have sort of this intake process for potential new clients, “Hey, we can set you up to come into the office. If you’re comfortable with that. Alternatively, we can do X, Y, and Z.” But I would make the client feel important and special and that their opinion matters particularly when it comes to safety.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. Thank you. What about you Mark?

 

Mark Metzger:

Todd, I think that was really well done. I think the only thing I would add to that is this, my advice for somebody looking to open their office is, don’t open your office until you have completed an exercise on paper, not in just your mind but on paper of what you’ve learned in working remotely in the last two or three months, what worked, what didn’t, what have you changed about what it is that you’re doing, that you’re going to continue to do going forward and what old things are you never going to go back and do ever again? The reason that I think it’s important… First of all, the reason you want to do it on paper is, writing engages your prefrontal cortex. If you just type it or you just think about it, it’s in a different part of your brain and it’s subject to all kinds of wacky emotion that you engage your prefrontal cortex, you’re shutting down your emotional complex.

 

Mark Metzger:

You want to do that so you can have a rational discussion with yourself. Writing is a great way to just forcibly engage the prefrontal cortex. Do this exercise in writing, if you find that most of your answers about why you’re positioning yourself to reopen the office are so that you can go back to doing what you did and the way you used to do it, I think you are positioning yourself to fail because the world has changed, it’s different now, even when we get a vaccine or a treatment, some of what has happened will stay with us. Some of the changes that we have experienced are not going to go away. If you have not yet figured out how to either live with those changes or take advantage of them, you’re in my judgment, not yet ready to reopen.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great, great advice. Thank you both. We’ll do one question from the audience and Todd you’ve touched on it a little bit, but this is from another Todd, how are you dealing with the personal fears and uncertainties of your team so, your staff members?

 

Todd Spodek:

Sure. I have to admit that my team is [inaudible 00:53:42]. I mean, I’m owning the place that I am and the firm is owning the place that it is purely based on our combined efforts. I’ve had employees where I do feel this way, but I’m fortunate that right now, this is the sentiment I have. Just to give you an example of what we do, so we have an online meeting via Google every morning. What we do is, we check in personally. Forget the clients, forget the drama, forget the money, forget all of that, how are you? How’s your mom? How’s your boyfriend, your girlfriend, whoever. Some of it, like I said, some of the staff has family that’s sick, unrelated to COVID, thank God or children or concerns about summer camp or concerns about this. We try to all connect and be supportive for each other.

 

Todd Spodek:

I think that’s really important because I want them to dedicate their time to our clients. I want our clients to feel that way. Not only do they need to be paid, I’m sorry, not only does the staff need to be paid accordingly, but they need to have the resources. They need to have the technology. They need to have the comfort that I have their back and that we’re in this together. They need to have comfort that whatever they’re going through in their personal life, this is like a safe space and they can share it with us and we’re going to be supportive. It’s really wonderful. I can’t say it enough, but the firm is only in its current posture is so successful because of everyone’s efforts. It’s not one person, it’s a combined thing.

 

Todd Spodek:

I think have those conversations. I see a lot of larger firms do these outings and weekend retreats, and I never sort of appreciated the value and COVID has made me realize how important that stuff is so do it. Whether it’s a pizza party or a round of drinks or whatever, it doesn’t really matter what it is, but make that effort, that needs to be a fundamental part of your team building, separate and distinct from anything else.

 

Casey Patterson:

Great. Thank you. Mark, what are your thoughts on this?

 

Mark Metzger:

I think that it’s important to keep in mind that fears that people have are not just limited to, will I get this virus and will I get sick. If your team has young parents on it, and by young parents, I mean, parents of kids that are like elementary age or younger, if they’re not even in elementary age, they’re looking at a world where they still can’t figure out how they’re going to get back to your office in the first place, because they don’t even have daycare. The ones with kids in school have been able to take advantage of for their entire working professional life until three months ago, they have the ability of at least the school system to take a chunk of that day for nine months of the year. Right now that is still in doubt as to what that looks like in the fall.

 

Mark Metzger:

The schools are playing with different versions of the same questions that we were just answering hereof, what do we do? Do we have some kids come in the morning and some in the afternoon and some just… each kid gets two days a week and we’re back to online learning. As one of my clients said to me, she said, “My God, I feel so fantastic this week because I finally got fired from one of my jobs. I’m no longer my kid’s teacher. Now I’m just a mom and a business owner.” [inaudible 00:57:00]-

 

Casey Patterson:

Wow.

 

Mark Metzger:

… she got to take it off of her list. The fears and the anxieties and the stresses that people have are not limited just to, will I get sick or not? It’s impacted their lives in remarkably different ways. All of that fits into the calculus of, are you behaving as a good boss, as a good leader, to say, we’re going back to normal. I mean, normal is gone, normal has changed, and you need to recognize that.

 

Casey Patterson:

That’s great. Man, I’ve learned so much already. This is great nuggets for the audience. Thank you both. Okay. We’re going to wrap up now, but before we do, I just wanted to mention that both Mark and Todd have graciously and [inaudible 00:57:48] talked about MyCase, which is a practice management software that helps law firms keep their business running smoothly from anywhere, whether you’re working from home or in the office. It is cloud-based and it allows you to basically open your laptop like Todd was saying, and start work without much pretense.

 

Casey Patterson:

96% of our customers would recommend MyCase to a friend or a colleague. Mark and Todd a part of that cohort and we’re just so thankful for those customers. We have the same philosophy of, happy customers come from happy employees and we truly enjoy making the product, talking with attorneys and then seeing them be able to use it in the ways that you two are. 83% of MyCase customers would say that MyCase has helped them provide a better client experience. You talked a lot about the client experience in this time and MyCase is a way that you can take steps to improve those client experiences, so they will refer and generate business for your firm.

 

Casey Patterson:

Thank you both so much for your time and thoughts. As always, very articulate and helpful and practical and they both have some contact information here, if you have follow up questions. I am always available for follow up questions as well via LinkedIn, or you can email my work email listed here. This webinar will be put up on our blog, so you can always go back to it if you have things that you missed and want to write down. Other than that, just want to say thank you both and thank you all for attending.

 

Mark Metzger:

Thank you Casey.

 

Casey Patterson:

Okay. Well, we’ll sign off with one minute to spare. We did it. Great job team. All right. Thanks Mark, thanks Todd.

 

Todd Spodek:

Thank you. Thanks Mark.

 

Casey Patterson:

Bye.





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