The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) 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 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.
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.
Contact: Susan DeSantis