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Implications of the Reopen NJ Plan for Law Firms

After months of enduring the strictures of curfews, business closures and other policies aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus, residents of the Garden State received welcome news for the summer.

On May 18, Governor Phil Murphy introduced a “road map” for reopening New Jersey’s economy. Rather than restarting the state economy all at once, the governor’s plan adopts a phased-in approach. The challenge today is how to safely reopen while the cases of coronavirus are increasing throughout numerous parts of the country. In addition, businesses must consider how to remain financially viable amid the current economic downturn spurred by the COVID-19 crisis. The formula for success may vary depending upon the industry a business finds itself. In the context of the legal industry, how can law firms remain safe and economically viable during these trying times?

Law Firms Should Take Note of the Guidance Provided by Government

Law firms adapting to the new challenges presented by COVID-19 should be cognizant of the guidance made available to them by the government. Two important sources of information offered by the Governor’s office include the Governor’s Reopen New Jersey plan and the New Jersey Pledge.

The Governor’s Reopen New Jersey Plan

While maintaining an emphasis on containment and public safety, the governor’s plan allows businesses to reopen in stages. As law firms generally do not have walk-in customers or products for sale, they were never closed under the Governor’s plan. They are required, however, to accommodate their workforce, wherever practicable, for telework or work-from-home arrangement and make best efforts to reduce staff on-site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.

Moreover, laws firms, as all residents and businesses, are required to follow state and federal safeguarding guidelines. This means:

  • Work that can be done from home should continue to be done from home
  • Clinically high-risk individuals who can stay at home should continue to do so
  • All residents and businesses should follow state and federal safeguarding guidelines:
    • Wash hands
    • Wear masks in public
    • Respect social distancing
    • Minimize gatherings
    • Disinfect workplace and businesses
    • Minimize gatherings
    • No mass gatherings

In addition, law firm leaders should consider a number of other factors: can barriers be installed within their office? Can access to the office be limited? How far apart employees can be from each other? What needs to be cleaned, how often and by whom?

For more information or questions, please contact a member of our Law Firm Services Group.

The New Jersey Pledge

In addition, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 within the office, New Jersey law firms, and their employees, and clients can participate in the One Jersey Pledge.

As part of the One Jersey Pledge:

Law Firm Customers pledge to:

  • Stay home if they’re not feeling well
  • Keep their distance (6 feet)
  • Mask up

Employers (Law Firms) pledge to:

  • Provide appropriate PPE for employees’ jobs
  • Provide sanitization materials, training, and time to practice safe hygiene as recommended by CDC
  • Respect employees’ privacy if participating in contact tracing efforts and/or other health initiatives
  • Administer staff health screenings that require employees stay home if sick
  • Institute measures to clean high-touch common areas frequently

Employees pledge to:

  • Stay at home if they feel sick
  • Follow hygiene guidelines, including regular hand-washing
  • Wear face coverings and other required PPE
  • Participate in staff health screening on arrival
  • Clean high-touch areas frequently

COVID-19 Financial Considerations

In addition to adopting measures to keep firm personnel healthy and well, law firm leaders may also want to consider the actions they should take to ensure the firm remains on sound financial footing during and after the pandemic. In the article A Positive Exercise for Post-Crisis Performance, law firm strategic advisor Tom Clay provides many recommendations. According to Clay, the first thing a law firm should do is “assess its strategies against potential changes in the external environment”. In most cases, Clay says, this should be done at the practice group or industry team level.

Clay adds that firms should consider whether what they are doing during the crisis can be continued as a longer-term strategy. To address this, Clay offers numerous questions firm leaders can ask themselves centered on four topics. They include :

  1. Client Value Proposition Is the firm offering the right set of services based upon perceived market changes?
  2. Profit Model Should increasing volume remain the primary objective or should the firm shift to focusing on decreasing cost of services sold in an effort to increase profit margins?
  3. Key Processes Is the firm truly committed to improving the efficiency of service delivery under the current circumstances?
  4. Key Resources Does the firm have the right people with the right skills to make the firm a success during and post crisis?


For more information on how your firm can position itself to succeed during and after the COVID-19 crisis, please reach out to your local Withum Professional Services Advisor.

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