Daily Coronavirus Update: NYSBA Issues Guidance on Reopening Law Firms

By Christian Nolan

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Good evening Members,

The New York State Bar Association has developed a model reopening plan that will help law firms get back to work as quickly as possible while protecting employees and clients alike.

“These vitally important guidelines are a must-read so that law firms of all sizes in every region of the state will be better equipped to handle the new normal,” said NYSBA President Hank Greenberg. “I’d like to thank our working group for its rapid response in consulting with law firm managers, general counsels, health authorities and labor experts to recommend the safest and most efficient ways for firms to resume operations.”

This guidance will help law firms prepare for phase two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s reopening plan, which includes law firms. The NYSBA working group’s recommendations on reopening law firms will be made available to all the association’s 70,000 plus members.

The guide includes the following recommendations:

  • Develop a testing plan for employees and implement strict rules for sick or at-risk individuals, including enforcing quarantines when necessary. Also, require mandatory self-reporting and self-isolation upon known virus exposure.
  • Emphasize social distancing, including no in-person meetings in the office for at least a specified time. Encourage the use of technology for remote mediations, hearings, arguments and depositions.
  • Wear masks – both at work and when traveling to and from the office. Discourage the use of mass transit.
  • Decide which employees will return to the workplace and encourage those who can continue to work effectively from home to do so until the governor announces that the threat has sufficiently passed to allow for a more general return.
  • If scientific data supports immunity, persons who were diagnosed with and recovered from COVID-19 may be exempt from the general work-from-home recommendation.
  • Limit the number of people coming into the office at the same time, limit unnecessary employee movement within the office and develop one-way foot traffic patterns if possible.
  • Stagger workstations, limit touchpoints and install barriers for employees at locations with heavy foot traffic. Develop sanitizing and cleaning protocols in accordance with recommended CDC and OSHA guidance.
  • Develop strict client and visitor policies, including restricting visitors from branch offices. Lawyers and staff should bring their own food.
  • Establish reasonable restrictions on use of restrooms and restrict the use of office common areas including joint refrigerators and office printers and copiers.

These guidelines will be amended as new challenges arise and strategies develop.

On Monday, May 18, NYSBA will host a “Reopening Your Law Office” webinar outlining key steps for law firms to take to foster a safe return to the office. Click here for more information and to register.

Fourth Region Qualifies to Reopen

Gov. Cuomo announced today that the North Country has met all seven metrics required to begin phase one of the state’s regional phased reopening plan when current shutdown orders expire on May 15.

The North Country joins the Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley for regions that have met the criteria to reopen. If the trend continues, these four regions can begin opening businesses for phase one, which includes construction, manufacturing and wholesale supply chain, retail for curbside pickup and drop-off or in-store pickup, and agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The state’s new regional monitoring dashboard, which is updated daily, is available here.

COVID-19 Webinars

Thursday, May 14 – Estate and Gift Tax Planning During the Coronavirus Pandemic. Learn why now is the ideal time to make tax-free gifts by taking advantage of depreciated asset values that are likely to rebound.

Friday, May 15 – Sick and Safe Leave in New York State: Moving Beyond COVID-19. A discussion of the new state sick leave law, which will provide sick and safe leave to all employees in New York State for reasons that are not limited to COVID-19.

Friday, May 15 – Making Legal Research Profitable and Effective for Your Firm During COVID-19. Learn how sole practitioners and small firms can increase the profitability, accuracy and speed of legal research by taking advantage of new AI technologies.

Latest NYSBA.ORG Coronavirus News

We are adding new content each day to our website related to the coronavirus public health emergency and its impact on the legal community.

Today we have coverage of why now is the time for remote co-ops closings and how COVID-19 is likely to lead to a flood of insurance litigation.

Also, the second season of the Gold/Fox: Non-Billable Podcast kicked off today with co-hosts Sarah Gold and Michael Fox catching up on how their lives have been impacted by the shutdown and stay-at-home orders.

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