If your practice was already prepared for remote work, or if you had to figure it out on the fly, here are some tips for making sure you are practicing safely in this strange, new world.
Let’s focus on our client needs.
If you are not yet taking credit card payments, you should consider doing so. The annual Clio Legal Trends Report shows that practices that accept credit card payments receive payment quicker and have fewer overdue account receivables than firms that do not accept credit card payments. Products such as LawPay are safe and designed for law firms. You can also look to e-check options or ACH automatic withdrawals.
You may need to be more flexible with your payment options during this time. If you don’t currently offer payment plans, this may be a good time to experiment with new forms of payment. Your clients may be out of work, taking a pay cut, or concerned about losing their jobs. If the choice is to deplete their resources and pay 100% of your bill or pay a portion of your bill so they can meet other household needs, being more flexible with your options may allow you to keep some revenue coming in.
You may want to consider new client service offerings. Clients are looking for advice and guidance and creating flat fee plans that offer tiered services and varying payment options may be a great way to have some recurring revenue for you and offer manageable services for your clients.
In the best of times, clients complain about their lawyer’s failure to communicate. During this time, be proactive in your communication. Let clients know where you are and how to get in touch with you. Check in with clients to see how they are holding up during this time. Make sure your clients understand the impact of court closures on their cases. You may find clients at extreme positions – clients who are concerned about everything but their case and clients who are only concerned about their case. Expect to see people at their worst during this crisis and be prepared to deal with it. Try to de-escalate client situations and emotions by listening and responding appropriately.
Communicate changes in how your office is working directly with clients, on your website, on your social media postings, and by leaving a sign on your law firm office. Change your voice mail to inform clients of a new location or adjusted office hours. Does your phone system handle your new needs? If not, now may be a good time to explore other options. Lawyers Mutual is using Celito which allows us to unplug our office phone and plug it in at home with no loss of service or to use a desktop and mobile app which allows us to use our mobile phone just like our office phone. I can tell when personal calls are coming into my mobile phone or when they are being routed through Celito. I can see the directory of my co-worker’s extensions and have the same ease in contacting people in my office as if we were still down the hall from another.
While the courts are operating under Chief Justice Beasley’s extension order through June 1, 2020, most deadlines remain in effect. Now, more than ever, your calendar system is a key component to mitigating your malpractice risks. Make sure you have a designated calendar czar who is managing your firm deadlines. If your team is working remotely, make sure you are checking in periodically and reviewing all deadlines and status of work to meet those deadlines. Give yourself plenty of time to get filings done so that you don’t show up at the courthouse at 5:00 only to find it operating on reduced hours. When possible file electronically. Test this system out in advance as well.
Clients are the core component of your practice. Keep your practice safe by focusing on client needs now more than ever.