For the past two months of pandemic, my news feeds have been awash with notices of webinars packed with influencers and gurus and futurists pontificating about how Pandemic will impact the future of the legal profession. Interesting questions indeed – but not nearly as interesting as what solo and small firm lawyers across the country are actually doing right now to serve clients, plan for the future and keep the wheels of justice turning in pandemic times.
Alas, I hadn’t seen much content on what solo and small firm lawyers are up to these days – so I decided to create it myself. Armed with my Zoom subscription and leveraging lawyers’ increased comfort level with online interviews, I reached out to my online communities in search of lawyers willing to share their experiences. Fourteen solo and small firm lawyers answered the call, taking time from their busy schedule to chat with me about what it’s like practicing during this unprecedented period – and what they shared made me proud.
For starters, rather than balk about having to learn or employ new technology or new approaches to handling hearings, many solo and small firm lawyers are simply diving right in.
Jeralyn Lawrence of Lawrence Law, a family law firm in Somerset County, NJ had barely heard of Zoom a few months ago. Now, she’s using the platform expertly as a mediator presiding over family law disputes.
Liisa Speaker, of Speaker Law, a Michigan-based appellate firm argued an appeal in Michigan courts via Zoom, and has been hosting popular weekly webinars on issues like How the Pandemic Affects Appeal Options.
Lawyers like D.C. based veteran’s and federal employment lawyer Michael Eisenberg , Tana Fye of Fye Law in Holdrege, Nebraska and Connecticut personal injury lawyer Ryan McKeen all celebrated the savings and convenience for both lawyers and clients that arise from the increased use of online hearings.
Of course, sometimes, tech tools aren’t necessary to solve some of the challenges of coronavirus. California estate planning attorney Robert Theofanis personally delivered documents to his client’s home with his young son in tow in this stroller, while D.C. immigration lawyer Pauline Schwartz experienced the joy of handing over a green card to a client in person, albeit from a safe social distance.
Meanwhile, when her state’s virtual notarization rules proved too cumbersome to apply in every situation, Bedford, Massachusetts family law and estate planning attorney Rebecca Neale developed a process for drive by will and trust signings.
Not only are solo and small firm lawyers accommodating their practices to serve clients in pandemic, but they are also on the front lines of novel legal issues. Boston-based trial lawyer Ken DeMoura of DeMoura Smith and employment lawyer Maura Greene of Greene Law Group reported that they are advising clients on how to deal with novel issues like employers’ obligations with respect to Covid in the workplace, or whether corona virus shut downs would trigger a force majeure remedy in a contract.
Although no one would ever wish for pandemic, out of this darkness, so many random acts of humanity and compassion by solo and small firm lawyers emerged. Adam Zuwerink , a Western Michigan business law attorney shared that his firm provides free advice to clients on all civid-related legal issues while Matt Muggeridge of FIDE Law in Fredericksburg, Virginia has gone to great lengths to keep his staff paid while making financial accommodations for clients who have lost jobs or businesses.
And Devon Slovensky prevailed on a life and death matter at an emergency hearing over an intubation.
Meanwhile, all of the solo and small firm lawyers interviewed expressed concern for staff, serving clients of lesser means and ensuring continued access to justice.
Whether you’re looking for new ideas on how to serve your clients, or seeking a reminder of the good that solo and small firm lawyers can do, take a look at the full set of video interviews here.