How Should Law Offices Respond To COVID-19?
How should your law office respond to the COVID-19 crisis? We recommend the following steps.
At the time of writing this blog post, there are more than 15,000 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus, and over 200 confirmed deaths. Unfortunately, the spread of the virus does not seem to be slowing down and each day the numbers are growing at an exponential rate.
I am typing this message from my backyard on my laptop, self-quarantined for the foreseeable future. As you read this, you may find yourself in a similar position, sitting at home unsure of what the future holds.
In the last week, we have seen incredible demonstrations of courage and leadership from our law firm clients, colleagues and friends. Rather than shrinking back and remaining silent, many continued to push forward in the face of new challenges to continue to advocate for their clients and secure the employment of their staff.
In fact, several lawyers we have spoken to have chosen to keep their offices open while eliminating any non-essential in person meetings. However, just as many law firms are finding that keeping their office open is no longer possible. In California, for example, a “stay at home” order was put in place which forced the closure of non-essential businesses. Even without a direct order, many law firms nationwide are putting the health and safety of their clients, staff and community first and opting to work remotely and outside of the office.
Fortunately, modern technology allows lawyers to operate their law firms from almost anywhere in the world. Technology like cloud computing, teleconferencing, email and case management tools provide means for lawyers to continue to operate without disruption. In many jurisdictions, courts are also adopting these technologies to ensure that disruption to court dockets are controlled and mitigated.
It seems like every hour, there is an update from local and national health authorities. As the spread of COVID-19 continues, it is important to not only leverage every tool in your arsenal to keep matters moving forward, but to also let your clients know what your plan is.
As an agency, we have touched base with every single client, past client and prospective client to make sure that (1) everyone is safe and healthy, and (2) that we are doing everything in our power to help them.
Like lawyers, we can operate nearly anywhere in the world through the technology, systems and processes we have adopted. Still, our clients and prospective clients may not know that we are open and available to help. Providing information on how we plan to continue to operate undisrupted during this time is critical not only for our business, but for our clients’ businesses as well.
That is why it is so important for lawyers to share how they are tackling the Coronavirus crisis. Letting clients know when you will be available, how they can contact you and where they can find information about their cases is critical to ongoing operations.
In regards to prospective clients, now may be the best time to let people know that you are open and actively taking on new business. As more people close their doors and practice safe social distancing, attention may be given to lingering legal issues, personal injury claims or estate planning tasks that have, until now, been pushed aside.
So, how should your law office respond to the COVID-19 crisis? We recommend the following steps:
Write a blog post or add an announcement bar that explains how clients and prospective clients can reach you, and what they should expect in terms of communication and updates.
In the last week, we have helped nearly all of our clients craft office responses to the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, we ended up creating a template announcement, which you can see HERE.
In addition, we have been working to add announcement bars to the home page of each website, linking to information regarding COVID-19. The announcement bars are simple, but they are prominently placed with clear calls to action (like this one).
If you do not have a website developer to help you set up an announcement bar, you could try adding a new section to your home page alerting new visitors to the changes at your office. At this point, done is always going to be better than perfect - and your visitors will appreciate the effort to let them know what your office is doing to serve its clients while keeping the community safe.
If you have social media accounts, a simple post telling your audience about your plans to close your office, work remotely and communicate electronically is another easy way to let people know how your office is handling the Coronavirus crisis.
Not sure what to post? We’ve been working around the clock to make sure our clients’ profiles have up to date information about their offices. We created the following four templates for other law firms to use as well. Simply save the image below and post to your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn account along with information about your office’s COVID-19 response.
Even if you do not have a subscriber list through Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign, you should still send an email checking in on your clients, former clients and colleagues letting them know you are thinking of them and that, despite COVID-19, you are available to help. If you are not sure where to start, we took the liberty of writing a draft email for you.
Email is a great way to not only share what you are doing over the course of the next few weeks, but also check in on your clients and colleagues to see how they are doing. Responding to the COVID-19 crisis is a community effort - we’re all in this together. Letting others know that you are thinking of them and genuinely concerned about their health and safety is a class-act move that will be remembered when this crisis passes.
One easy way to create a more human connection during this time of social distancing is to create a very brief video shot straight from your phone or laptop camera. The video can then be uploaded to your website, shared on social media and linked to in your email.
Why video? Video gives lawyers a chance to stand out among the chatter and present themselves as community leaders. Video content can also help you demonstrate leadership, provide reassurance and show how you and your office are preparing to handle COVID-19 in the weeks to come.
If you are not sure where to start, here are a few tips and talking points:
1. Keep it brief.
For the clearest message possible, keep your video under 2 minutes.
Avoid backlighting and look for a place in your office or home that is away from the window, or where natural light can shine toward your face.
3. Give an introduction.
Introduce yourself and start the video with a positive, clear message and action plan. For example, you may say something like:
"Hi everyone! This is attorney________ and I wanted to give you some information about what our law firm is doing to keep you, our staff and our community healthy and safe in light of the COVID-19 virus. Your safety and wellbeing is and always has been our number one priority. That’s why our team is monitoring the situation closely, and currently our decision is to _____.”
4. Highlight your response.
Highlight what your office is doing to respond to the crisis. For example, you might say:
“Effective immediately, our law office will no longer be conducting in-person meetings or accepting visitors or walk-ins. These measures will remain in place until ______, at which point our office will reevaluate the situation. In the meantime, we encourage you to use other means available to communicate with our office and share information related to your representation. Until the COVID-19 crisis has been resolved, our lawyers and staff will remain available via email, phone, online meetings, and video conferencing to continue to serve you.”
5. Keep clients informed.
Let clients and colleagues know how you plan to conduct business. For example, you might say something like:
“In an effort to further limit contact and the potential spread of Coronavirus, we ask that you consider using email to send all documents rather than traditional mail. We are also requesting that any documents requiring your signature be signed and returned electronically or by mail for signature return. For information regarding the status of your case or matter, you can log into your [client portal/client dashboard].”
6. Provide contact details.
Finally, let your viewers know how they can get in touch with you should they have questions. This may include providing your cell phone, the number of a third party answering service, a live chat feature on your website or by email
In the end, making the effort to respond to the Coronavirus and demonstrate leadership amidst the crisis will be appreciated by your staff, clients and community. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t have to be pretty. But, it does need to be authentic, compassionate and helpful. By following the tips above and using the resources provided, you can ensure that your law office’s response to COVID-19 is both thorough and helpful.