Amidst these unprecedented times, lawyers are facing unique challenges. As the practice of law continues as an essential business, lawyers must adjust many aspects of their business operations, including changes in how they conduct regular banking business. Here are some tips to help navigate banking business during these times of “practicing in place.”
Let us focus first on security considerations from a banking perspective. Be aware that cyber-criminals will use this period of disruption to victimize law firms and others, much as they do during the holidays. You likely have best practices for banking and wire fraud security in place, but have you re-visited those and potentially altered them based on changes in the way you are practicing now? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- Use a stand-alone computer for banking only (no email, no web browsing).
- Consider setting up a VPN for you and your staff if working remotely.
- Always utilize a secure internet connection that requires a password.
- Install and update commercial anti-virus, desktop firewall software, and spyware detection programs.
- Utilize a service for sending and receiving secure email.
- Verbally verify all wire instructions by calling a trusted number – do not send based on an email request.
- Utilize dual-control to send wires (one initiator, one approver).
- Exercise caution when being asked to click a link embedded in an email.
- Never share or provide your usernames, passwords, or PINs.
- Limit user rights within your online banking platform to limit exposure.
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Another concern affecting so many is the potential lack of cash flow and economic distress that may be impacting your firm. If you have not done so, consider contacting your primary business bank to apply for the SBA Paycheck Protection Program offered through the CARES Act to benefit small businesses and their employees. In the first round of the program, TowneBank processed almost 5,000 applications resulting in loans totaling over $1 billion to support 117,000 jobs in our communities.
An additional option for cash flow relief is to reach out to your business banker to explore the options for a working capital line of credit in the current low interest rate environment, as well as a possible loan payment deferral if applicable.
Banking Practices During COVID-19
Finally, let us briefly consider the practical impact of COVID-19 on your normal banking practices. If you or someone from your firm typically makes deposits in person at a branch, or if you utilized a courier service, you may now require alternative options for depositing. Many banks offer business banking mobile apps which you can utilize for depositing, depending on your volume. Another option to consider is Remote Deposit Capture, which allows you to deposit checks via scanner from your home or office.
As you focus on protecting your employees, as well as keeping your practice moving forward, continue to be vigilant in your security practices. Utilize the financial resources available to you to support your business, and work with your banker to streamline your banking processes in this altered environment. Stay safe and healthy out there!