Businesses are closed and stay-at-home orders are being mandated in several states. With each day revealing more and more cases of those infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19), many lawyers are struggling to understand how to keep their firm effectively running.
We discussed how to establish an efficient virtual office in our previous blog, but we understand that concerns go beyond remote operations. The resources below outline the processes to take to ensure that your firm, employees and clients make it safely through this pandemic.
While it is important to address the concerns and safety of your staff and clients, the health and wellness of your firm is the backbone of your success. You may be fighting just to keep your virtual doors open at this time, and we understand. We have had an abundance of conversations with our clients over the last few weeks, who are concerned about how their business should operate through this unusually volatile time. The strange time we are in, while has upended the status quo, brings us even closer to our clients and opens the door for new opportunities. We’re in this together, and we will come out victorious on the other side of this crisis. Let’s navigate your pathway to continuing business, while we diligently navigate through this temporary situation..
While you may feel like the future is uncertain, realize that you are not alone. The US Congress just approved a $2 trillion dollar stimulus package to serve as a rescue aid for businesses and the economy as a whole. This plan outlines specific financial assistance for small businesses, for law firms, this applies to you if your annual revenue is $12,000,000 or less. The bill includes:
Currently, business owners in the US are eligible to apply for these low-interest rate loans. The program allots up to $2 million to supplement for loss of revenue during this pandemic. The funds from these loans can be applied to fixed debts, payroll, and other operational bills. While each loan has unique terms, they are designed to have long-term repayment plans so you can stay on track with your business. You can apply for a loan here.
If your firm already has a relationship with an SBA Express Lender, you may be eligible for up to $25,000. If you can show a dire need for financial aid, this could be an expedited option. This loan “bridges” the gap so businesses have funding to continue to operate while waiting on the finalization of long-term financing. Find a lender here.
Part of the CARES act that just passed contains a program that helps business maintain their employees on payroll. A PPP loan with an amount of 250% of a business’s average monthly payroll costs over the last 12 months is available, with a maximum interest rate of 4%. But, as long as the business uses the funds for payroll, interest payments on mortgages, rent and/or utilities, the loan is forgivable. More info here.
Several banks, including popular small business banks like Bank of America, Chase, American Express, and Citi are offering deferred payment options in light of the economic struggle. This is in addition to extending credit limits and payment deadlines, and waiving late fees. We encourage you to contact your bank via online or telephone to explore all of your options.
Review your current vendor contracts and learn what your obligations are for payment. While the contract may or may not explicitly state your financial obligation during an unforeseen event, you may find language that you can use to renegotiate the terms due to current circumstances. You’ll find that several businesses are even voluntarily waiving payments temporarily in an effort to support their existing customers. Speak to your vendors and learn the options.
Last, but certainly not least, keep moving forward. Arbitrations, mediations and depositions can still be conducted remotely. Your team still has the ability to continue the discovery process, submit materials, and even e-file motions. Courts are operating on a state-by-state basis, so check the status of your local branch daily. You can also reference this list of all federal court websites to find specific information on court orders and operations in the states you practice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers an interactive coronavirus self-checker, along with a full report of symptoms, and instructions for prevention. Share this information with your employees often, and check in with them individually to motivate them to take the proper precautions. Reiterate the value they bring to your firm and the importance of their health.
With new cases arising every day, you need to have a well-versed team who can jump into tasks outside of their normal realm should one or more of your staff members fall ill. Cross-train employees on lead intake, e-filing, deposition preparation, and basic admin functions to keep business running smoothly in the absence of one of your key players.
We outlined ways to stay in communication with your clients in our Best Practices for Remote Law Firm Operations blog. We strongly encourage you to take these steps, which include actions such as emailing updates, sending newsletters, and calling your clients directly. The main take-away is to stay in communication more than usual during this unprecedented situation.
In addition to outbound communications, we recommend for law firms to settle the worries of inbound website traffic. If you haven’t already, adding a section to your website that is solely dedicated to COVID-19 updates and how it is affecting your firm is an excellent resource for clients to stay abreast on the actions you are taking. Additionally, you can tailor your new content to expand on relevant topics relating to the pandemic including:
Here is a step by step guide with how to do this yourself, if you are not a client of ours already.
Use this unique situation to seek out opportunities to cross-sell your existing clients. Outline the services you provide, and identify how they may be able to serve someone affected by the current crisis. American Bar Association (ABA) President Judy Perry Martinez said, “As the pandemic spreads, thousands of Americans will need help – not just with medical issues but also with legal issues including lost jobs, evictions, insurance claims, family emergencies and obtaining government benefits they need to survive.”
We anticipate a spike in demand for certain legal services, and this is an opportunity to proactively approach your clients who already trust you.
By committing to the vitality of your firm, your employees and your clients, we are confident your business can weather this storm. If you need assistance in the process, the Postali team is ready to take on the appropriate tasks to help keep your firm not only running, but prosperous. Contact us today to see how we can help.