Best Tips for Your Law Firm to Stay Ahead During the Coronavirus Outbreak
We are living in unprecedented times. Coronavirus has changed the world and the way we work. It’s taken thousands of lives, scrambled entire industries, and left hundreds of thousands of people wondering what their economic reality will look like when the dust settles.
The legal industry is unique. Some lawyers are higher in demand than ever because of issues caused by the pandemic. Other firms are struggling to stay afloat during a time when many businesses, transactions, and even court cases are put on hold.
Either way, the economic effects of COVID-19 are here to stay. The post-coronavirus world is bound to look different than what we considered normal before the virus.
So, as lawyers, how do we not just survive but thrive in this new economy? How do we help our clients do the same when so much of the present and future is uncertain?
I had the opportunity to talk with industry leaders about practicing law in the time of COVID-19. Below are their thoughts on how to cope, how to adapt, and how to move forward.
Kevin O’Keef, CEO of LexBlog
You cannot shut down the world for months without taking a hit on the economy. Over 150 countries have slammed to an economic halt. A crisis of this magnitude will likely take years of recovery, so lawyers have to think and act like entrepreneurs now more than ever.
Some unemployment projections show that up to 30% of people in the United States could lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Many people will have far less cash on hand for the next couple of years. They will be less likely to pay a lawyer for simple things like divorce – some may even separate but choose to delay their divorce if they can’t afford an attorney.
Larger law firms can expect to take a hit as the economy contracts. This could lead to reducing the number of partners, associates, paralegals, or other office professionals on staff. If you’re a smaller firm, you’d better have strong client relationships or a solid niche that you can serve.
Smart lawyers will double down on a niche related to the virus. For example, instead of marketing yourself as an employment lawyer, focus on FMLA Law and COVID-19 for a state like California. Lead the niche by creating the only blog in the country on the topic.
You can expect more competition now than ever – both from other lawyers and from new technologies built by entrepreneurs who see opportunities to provide access to legal services. Lawyers will have to think outside the box to stay relevant.
Mark Britton, Founder of Avvo
The spread of COVID-19 has been tragic. However, one silver lining of social distancing is how courts and law firms are being forced to seriously explore new (or not so new) technologies for the first time – video in particular.
In speeches to judges and courts over the years, I’ve argued that based on equity and efficiency, video conferencing would be the court of the future. But many judges met the idea of remote court with hostility. They “needed to look witnesses in the eye” or simply “didn’t have the money” to implement such a framework. There was little discussion on why new technologies would become so important or whether courtrooms would become obsolete.
Hopefully, our recent experiences with technology will take the legal industry a big step forward in exploring and embracing new systems that make our firms, courts, rules, and processes more relevant, efficient, and equitable.
Tim Stanley, Founder of FindLaw and CEO of Justia.com
The biggest change to come out of this pandemic will be the increased use of video conferencing among attorneys, both with clients and in court proceedings.
The shift to new technology is getting a jump-start right now. It’s late, but there’s nothing like necessity to force learning and use. More lawyers and courts now need to use video conferencing and thus are learning how to use it.
Even after this crisis ends, I expect the use of video conferencing to continue. Video may become the new normal for client sign-ups and meetings as well as many court proceedings – especially those that involve just the judge and lawyers. This will also be true for many administrative proceedings, like bankruptcy, immigration, and pre-trial hearings.
Although the trend is just starting, more and more proceedings will move to video conferencing in the weeks and months ahead. Considering the cost savings to the client, these changes are likely to remain after this period of social isolation is over.
The legal industry is also heading for changes unrelated to the pandemic, though the crisis may speed up their development. The market is moving to greater automation for legal forms and less of a demand for legal services in general.
Dennis Yu, CEO of BlitzMetrics and Facebook Ads Expert
You might consider pausing your pay-per-click advertising campaigns during the pandemic. But advertising prices are down 40-55% on Facebook and Google right now – and clients will remember you when the economy recovers.
Strong law firms can take advantage of low prices and get ahead by buying attention. But it all depends on how you advertise. Don’t simply run the ads you had running before. Now is the time to show your humanity and connect with people. One idea is to create mid-funnel short-form videos of yourself addressing your ideal clients.
The Bottom Line
Some firms may have had disaster recovery or preparedness plans already in place. Some may have had full remote capabilities even before the virus hit. But many firms are simply reacting to an unprecedented crisis that has left our world functioning very differently than normal. It’s understandable to feel lost or thrown off balance.
As we all find our way forward into a post-coronavirus economy, make sure to reach out to your network. Ask what your colleagues are doing. Connect with other firms and see how they’re coping. Consider taking these steps to get on the right track:
- Encourage your employees to work remotely for their health and safety
- Invest in a secure teleconferencing/video platform like Zoom or Belive
- Move to a paperless and cloud-based file management system as well as e-signature tools such as Adobe Sign
- Continue to build a strong marketing presence – now is the time to try new ideas
- Build an internal PR system to reach out to reporters with story ideas relating to current events involving COVID-19 in your practice area. You only need one story to go viral.
- Invest in a virtual call center software like Aircall
- Consider online cross-training manuals like Trainual for employees to cover colleagues who fall sick and keep office systems running smoothly
What steps are you taking to manage the effect of coronavirus on your legal practice? Comment below!