The COVID-19 pandemic has had detrimental effects on almost every part of American society, including the United States legal industry. America’s law firms are facing enormous challenges with no clear end to the global crisis. Much like entire industries that have experienced devastation from the effects of the virus, law firms across the country are innovating ways to continue to serve their clients while also trying to avoid financial disaster.
How COVID-19 Affects The Legal System
The influence of COVID-19 on the practice of law can be felt most intently in the courtroom. With factors such as the process for hearings, virtual depositions, and filing deadlines changing rapidly, attorneys are having to adapt quickly to new methods of court proceedings.
The practice of law is usually driven by a sense of urgency, which while that may still be the goal, most cases are not moving as quickly due to adaptations being made in the legal system. Innovative technological tools are becoming paramount to the way businesses are operated and clients are served. Videoconferencing, working remotely, and adapted marketing efforts are enabling the ability of law firms to continue their work in serving their clients.
Court Appearances and Clients are Affected
The pressure felt by law firms as they adapt to working remotely during COVID-19 depends on a multitude of factors. Two of the most pressing issues include court appearances and elder and/or seriously injured clients.
Lawyers most negatively impacted by the pandemic are litigators and those working contingency cases. With the future process of jury trials in question, many litigants do not feel as pressured to settle their cases. Furthermore, since contingency lawyers only collect their fees when cases are resolved, they are also looking for the best options. Court proceedings such as virtual mediations and even pilot programs for civil jury trials to be held using remote technology are emerging, but we are yet to see how this will affect the legal landscape for the long-term.
Simultaneously, a lot of firms are finding that older clients require more face-to-face interactions. COVID-19 adds a layer of urgency for clients who are amidst estate planning as they face difficult decisions as to the potential for incapacitation or even death.
Business Law Firms Are Affected
In anticipation of defaults, forbearances, and alterations of short-term payment plans, business owners are likely to ramp up collection efforts. We can expect to see an uptick in non-compete litigation as laid off or furloughed professionals are seeking out new employment opportunities like startups.
Law Firms Are Bringing In More Clients
Much like we saw with the 2008 recession, new companies and entrepreneurs will emerge as a result of COVID-19. This means that lawyers will be in high demand to help new businesses evolve.
An estimated 38.6 million people have filed for unemployment since March – that’s nearly 15% of the country’s population. As those individuals find ways to head back into the workforce, many will need to adapt their goals and expectations. Many of their jobs will be fundamentally altered or simply not return at all. This will inherently provoke some to look outside of their areas of expertise and explore other career avenues.
Business owners will need assistance and seek the help of attorneys to incorporate or legally protect their businesses. This gives lawyers the vital task of helping businesses make decisions about their tax status and deciding which entity they will create, be it a sole proprietorship, limited liability corporation, or partnership. Clients will need assistance with operations and membership agreements for who is responsible for capital, profits/losses, stock, voting shares, and other concerns.
Despite the disastrous impact of COVID-19 on the legal industry, certain law firms are experiencing a surge in business. The advice of employment attorneys has been crucial toward helping employers navigate more and more complex matters of employee safety and layoffs. Insurance lawyers are needed to define coverage exclusions with regard to risks and bankruptcy attorneys are also in great demand as a result of the financial crisis.
COVID-19 Can Be An Opportunity For Your Law Firm To Reassess And Strategize
The legal industry may be permanently transformed into the digital world by this crisis. We can expect the industry to be barraged by both old and new cases once the pandemic ends and new practices are expected to continue to help law firms adapt.
Law firms should be reassessing and strategizing during the COVID-19 pandemic. These adjustments and transitions will ultimately leave organizations and attorneys in a better position and firms will learn to become more flexible, agile, and adaptable.