How COVID-19 Affects Lawyers - A Guide for Solo & Small Firms

Peter Wahlberg

This is a guest post by Jordan Ostroff, Managing Partner of Jordan Law, which focuses on personal injury and business and administrative law, and President of LegalEase Marketing, a legal marketing firm leveraging his years of public and private legal experience.

As we sit here unsure of the total ramifications of this new and unknown virus, the same thoughts go through all of our heads...

How long will this go on?

What will the long term economic impact be for this?

And even, will my business survive this?

As a business lawyer, but as a small business owner myself, I can tell you that we are all in the same boat. So we put together this short FAQ to help us all get through this.

Take Your Business Remote, Fast

What should I do now to prepare my business for the worst of this?

The biggest thing is two-fold: Get in the best position possible to work remotely and then cut expenses as much as you can.

What do I need to work remotely?

This is going to depend upon each company, obviously restaurants can't really work remotely. But for most of us, a computer and the right programs are all we really need. Think about the following:

What do I need to do my work?  

Ideally your CRM/case management system/whatever other programs you need for work are already cloud based. If not, I would suggest moving to that.

Programs like Google Drive/Dropbox/Box will help make sure you have access to documents no matter where you are. You might need to start scanning stuff now though.

Also, if you don't have a VOIP phone system, make sure your calls are forwarding to a cell phone or some other number that you will have access to from anywhere. (Google Voice, Line2, Sideline, and any other programs like this might be a great thing to get today.)

Zoom and Google Hangouts have free plans, and if your laptop has a webcam, this is a great option to speak to clients and other staff without it being so impersonal as the phone.

A printer and scanner might be needed, but in a pinch, there are apps for your cell phone to scan documents, many of which are free.

Also, if you're still mailing stuff, you probably need envelopes and stamps.

What do I need to get paid?

Make sure you have the ability for clients to e-sign contracts. DocuSign, HelloSign, and dozens of other programs exist for this sole purpose, if you don't have one, get one, it will make your life easier moving forward.

Make sure you can take credit card payments over the phone and send invoices, if you don't have a fancy payment processor, Square/PayPal/Stripe have almost free options for you to use. You will pay more of an exchange when you use them, but better to be able to accept money virtually than not be able to.

What if I can't work remotely? 

Then you need to make sure you are being as safe as possible. Wear gloves, stay away from large groups, wash your hands, assign objects required for the job to specific people rather than having people share registers/tools/etc.

Anything else?  

Really sit down and take 10-15 minutes and see if there's anything else you need to do your job that isn't available on the internet. Then make sure you have those items on you as you go from your work to your house in-case you can't get back to your office for any reason, including a lockdown.

Cutting Costs

With that figured out, then let's talk about cutting costs.

How do I cut non-employee costs?

  • Don't make any large purchases that you don't have to for the next few weeks or months. And make sure you check your contracts!
  • Look at your leases, there may be a force majeure clause that enables you to withhold rent until the virus is over. See if any of your contracts have these.
  • Reach out to your vendors and ask about extending payments or breaking any payments due in the next few months up into smaller amounts. It doesn't hurt to ask.

On the flip side, if you know that you won't have a cash flow issue, see if you can pre-pay for anything and get a discount. Most companies are going to be afraid of sales going down, but if you sell hand sanitizer or N95 masks, start leveraging your cash to cut costs moving forward anyway.

Think about any products or services you can cut. You probably don't need dry cleaning if you're not going to the office, if you are paying for someone to come get it, cancel that service. Same for office cleaning. Think about where you can make cuts. Is there anything else your business can do without for the next period of time?

Once you think you are ready, test run it. If you haven't already closed your physical office, pick a day this week and try it, or try it for parts of your staff and see what other issues come up. Flexibility is essential for your business going forward.

What about employee expenses?

The quick solution is yes, you can fire anyone you need to due to this situation. Many states are even extending unemployment benefits and waiving waiting times for employees affected by this. As long as you don't have an employment contract that prevents it, if you have to get rid of any employees you can do it.

You also should be able to cut hours and pay temporarily due to this if need be. Universal Studios cut their executives pay by 20%, many other businesses have cut back on hours. Again, just make sure you don't have a contract that says otherwise, and double check that your state doesn't have some law against any of this. Just remember, minimum wage is still in effect.

Furthermore, any employees required to be quarantined due to this, should be eligible for government assistance as well. Many states have already passed laws to cover that, and there is a bill pending on the federal level for it to cover everyone.

Lastly, reach out to your bank and see if they have any options. The Federal Reserve just cut interest rates — it might be a good time for a line of credit or a short term loan to make sure you have the cash needed to get through this.

We are all in this together and we will bounce back.  You can do this!

About Jordan Ostroff

Image result for jordan ostroff

Jordan Ostroff is Managing Partner of Jordan Law, a firm focusing on personal injury and business and administrative law, and President of LegalEase Marketing, a legal marketing firm leveraging his years of public and private legal experience. He is based in Orlando, FL.

Peter Wahlberg

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