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 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.
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:
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?
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:
Employers (Law Firms) pledge to:
Employees pledge to:
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 :
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.