COVID-19 and Your Law Firm: Present and Future

By Leslie H. Tayne

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COVID-19 has taken hold of the world. In addition to the disastrous health impacts of the coronavirus, the effects on businesses have also been drastic. And the legal world is not immune to the financial fallout from this pandemic.

Some forms of law that can help those impacted by the virus are seeing an increase in business, but for many firms, the order for the general public to stay home may be keeping clients away. Therefore, it’s crucial for firms to address the problems they’re facing in the present moment, as well as to prepare for the future of the firm as the pandemic continues — and for when life eventually goes back to relative normalcy.

Adjusting Business Operations

Chances are, by now, most or all employees in your firm are working from home. This has likely changed the way you do business. You may be adjusting to conducting meetings or client consultations virtually. You also may have had to make the difficult decision of cutting hours or salaries or laying off employees completely. Unfortunately, the longer this pandemic draws on, the more difficult decisions you’ll likely be faced with.

Right now, the landscape is changing all the time. Your firm may need to review its operational budget more frequently – perhaps even weekly. Looking for ways to cut back on expenses will be beneficial to retaining staff and keeping salaries intact. Additionally, for small firms, the Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans to qualifying businesses to help retain employees and cover expenses. When and if difficult decisions arise, it’s important to consider what’s best for the firm’s employees as well as the firm overall as a business.

Adjusting the Firm’s Offerings

If business has decreased because of the stay-at-home-order, your firm may consider adjusting its offerings. Consider whether your area of law can help, either directly or indirectly, individuals who have been hit by the by health or financial impacts of COVID-19.

Putting your clients first should always be a priority. Keep in mind some clients may be more needy during this time so catering to their needs during this time can also have a major impact on how you manage your firm’s offerings. If you are able to pivot your services to help those impacted, consider how to reach those who need you and prioritizing the workload and client load.

You may consider free or discounted phone or web consultations as well to entice new business and offer additional services to existing clients as well. Taking a fresh look at your firm’s marketing strategy now is ideal to adjust to the firm’s new offerings and the firm’s response to managing expectations for clients. Brainstorm budget-friendly ways to get the word out – your website and social media platforms can be excellent, low-cost marketing vehicles during this time.

Planning for the Future

Unfortunately, it’s difficult  at this time to predict when things will “go back to normal.” This, of course, makes it very challenging to plan for both the short- and long-term. However, simply taking things one day at a time can also be disastrous for the future of your firm.

Consider keeping your budget lean and avoiding adding debt if possible. Contact all creditors to ensure that you have the best rates and time to pay if need be. There is nothing wrong with asking creditors what assistance is being offered, which could include lower interest rates, forbearance, or abatement of rent or mortgage payments.

If debt does become a necessity, research resources and loans that best suit your firm’s needs. Be wary of quick-fix loans, such as merchant cash advances and even personal loans at this time. Though they can be tempting during crises, they can carry some stiff interest rates and challenging repayment terms. Have a plan so that decisions can be made quickly and nimbly during and after the crises. Now should not be the time to take on new debts or unnecessary challenges, but decisions should keep both the short and long-term financial health of the firm in mind.

This is an unprecedented time that is presenting new challenges for individuals and businesses alike. The businesses that will come out of this most favorably will be those that find a balance – a balance between the firm’s needs, the clients’ needs and employees’ needs. More than ever, it’s important for your firm to be nimble and adaptable.

Being resistant to change during this time will only set your firm back. Making adjustments while continuing to keep the firm’s future in mind will help your law firm weather this storm.

Leslie H. Tayne, Esq. is the founder and managing director of Tayne Law Group.

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