NYSBA Task Force Issues New Guide for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners To Manage Emergencies

By Brandon Vogel

NYSBA Task Force Issues New Guide for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners To Manage Emergencies

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A new blueprint for solo and small firm lawyers to best navigate times of crisis has been issued by the New York State Bar Association’s Emergency Task Force for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners.

The task force’s review of the impact of COVID-19 on solo and small-firm practitioners found that the pandemic exponentially increased day-to-day stresses on the operations of law firms, especially solo and small firm practices.

“No part of society escaped COVID’s reach, including New York’s legal system. Lasting changes will occur,” said NYSBA President T. Andrew Brown, of Rochester (Brown Hutchinson). “This timely report expertly details how solo and small firm practitioners can navigate a crisis and continue to serve clients.”

Created in March 2020 by Past President Hank Greenberg (Greenberg Traurig), the task force’s mandate was to comprehensively examine the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on all aspects of solo and small firm practices, and to make meaningful recommendations as to how solo and small firm practitioners can maintain their practices in times of crisis.

Among the task force’s recommendations and best practices:

  • Since access to the judicial system is critical, consider waiving in-person appearances and improve the submission and presentation of evidence during a virtual trial
  • Mandate statewide e-filing and the enabling of electronic online access to entire case records for all courts
  • Establish uniform rules for the administration of virtual hearings and trials and develop a uniform statewide electronic policy
  • Classify the practice of law as an essential occupation
  • Provide streamlined procedures for the payment of vouchers to attorneys who perform assigned work during a crisis that results in disrupted court operations
  • Keep office safety and sanitization procedures in place to reduce the severity of future outbreaks
  • Screen courthouse participants for symptoms of infection prior to entering buildings

“As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, lawyers must know the steps to take in the event of a future crisis,” said Domenick Napoletano of Brooklyn (Law Office of Domenick Napoletano). “We have learned a lot and this report showcases how we can safeguard our practices for the future.”

“There is no one-size-fits all solution for solo and small firm lawyers, but we have outlined daily actionable steps that can help meet lawyers’ needs,” said co-chair June M. Castellano of Rochester (Law Office of June Castellano). “Many COVID changes, including remote court appearances, do appear to be here to stay.”

The report, approved by the NYSBA House of Delegates on Oct. 30, can be viewed here.

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, the Association 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.

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Contact: Brandon Vogel
[email protected]
518-487-5644

 

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