People Priorities: Leading In A Time Of Uncertainty

A global crisis like COVID-19 creates strains in every aspect of life. From managing a remote workforce to keeping your family happy and healthy, there are plenty of new challenges to overcome.

The latest Law Firm Leadership Collaboration Circle focused on how to effectively manage people in both your work and personal life.

It’s not easy, but there are tips, tools and resources that can help ease the burden – as well as some positives we can take away from this once it has passed!

Law Firm Operational Challenges During The COVID-19 Crisis

Depending on your practice area, you may or may not be feeling a huge impact yet. For example, family law attorneys may notice a slowdown as clients are less likely to feel ready to move forward with legal proceedings until things settle down to a semblance of normalcy.

However, that is likely to change in the coming weeks and months as a surge in divorce proceedings is expected following extended quarantines and lockdowns (this has already been noticed in countries like China that are a few weeks ahead of us).

Similarly, other practices such as personal injury may have work in the current pipeline, but that will likely slow down due to people staying in, not driving as much, etc.

This leads to a conundrum of sorts for many practices: How do you deal with a slowdown in work now while preparing for a potential spike in the future?

Meanwhile, employment law attorneys are likely being inundated with requests for information as the unemployment rates continue to climb and rapid changes like stimulus benefits leave many confused regarding their right to specific entitlements.

And as if leading your staff and firm through these uncertain times wasn’t challenging enough, you are likely also having to manage the mental health of your family as they adapt to significant lifestyle changes as well.

Use Extra Time To Institute Change

Most of us are now dealing with an abundance of something that is typically a luxury: Time.

If your caseload is slowing or your current cases are delayed from courthouse closures, use this time to revamp your in-house processes to optimize for the future.

Have you been meaning to restructure certain aspects of your firm but just haven’t had a chance to get around to it? How is your intake process? What about billing and marketing?

Now is the perfect time to enact changes as your staff likely has more capacity to work on updating procedures, many software companies are offering reduced pricing and you have more opportunity to explore strategic partnerships.

Be sure to keep in mind that while it may be slowing down at the moment, will you have the ability to manage an influx of cases as well as management and administrative responsibilities 30-60 days from now?

Consider Creative Solutions To Casework

Courthouse closures does not necessarily mean lawyers cannot work – many courts are offering virtual hearings to keep cases moving. And although this may not be the case in your jurisdiction, it is certainly something to look into.

Another option to keep casework moving is to consider cutting out the courtroom entirely with virtual mediation when possible.

With many courts on hold, you should have plenty of time to prepare. Additionally, many insurance adjusters are used to participating by phone anyway, so it shouldn’t be a drastic change of pace.

Stay Informed & Keep Staff Up To Speed On Policies

Employment rules are changing rapidly, so it is critical that you understand current regulations, take precautions to protect yourself from litigation and implement policies to keep your employees safe.

For example, many employers are dealing with an influx of sick leave requests while simultaneously considering layoffs. If an employee puts in a request for sick leave and is then laid off, that opens a claim for discrimination.

Be sure to keep up with Department Of Labor and OSHA policies regarding COVID-19 to protect yourself and your staff.

Establish Boundaries & Make Time For Self-Care

On one hand, a benefit of moving to a remote workforce is it gives you and your staff more time with your families. On the other hand, a disadvantage of moving to a remote workforce is the disruption of family dynamics as previous normal routines are rattled.

To keep things on the positive viewpoint, it is critical that you establish boundaries and still make time for yourself.

Use your extra time to get in a workout routine, practice meditation, start cooking more, etc.

Your goal coming out of lockdown and quarantine should be to avoid having to contact a family law attorney!

Positive Industry Change Could Be On The Horizon

The changes we are seeing as we convert to a remote work environment to limit person-to-person interactions and slow the spread of COVID-19 have had some bumps along the way; however, it may have the side effect of bringing about positive change in the legal industry.

We are gradually discovering that many of our daily operations can be performed virtually, which is giving us more time back as we cut out things like daily commutes.

This can have a surprising impact on revenue as attorneys spend so much of their time driving to and from hearings and client meetings  as opposed to billable work.

Additionally, this extra time gives more opportunity for self-care, something that is needed now more than ever.

Instead of driving to and from the office, the courthouse and back again, we can spend more quality time with our families and positive activities like exercise or personal hobbies.

Looking back now, many of these changes like hosting virtual meetings could have been made long ago. However, change is slow to happen in the legal industry and a crisis like COVID-19 accelerated what was likely an eventuality.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom of the situation we are all facing in the moment but remember that this too shall pass. Use the lessons learned from this adversity to make you stronger and bring about positive change for your staff, your family and yourself.

Join us for next week’s Law Firm Leadership Collaboration Circle as we expand on some of these themes to discuss how we can use the challenges experienced operationally and strategically during the COVID crisis to improve law firm management in the future.

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