Meeting with an Attorney during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Posted on Friday, March 13th, 2020 at 4:46 pm
While many businesses are closed during this time, law firms have been allowed to remain open alongside grocery stores, gas stations, and medical facilities. This is a recognition that many lawsuits are extremely important and cannot be paused even during an emergency like the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
There have been many disruptions in Greater Cincinnati area due to concerns surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak, including school closings. During this time it is wise to take precautions such as social distancing. Lawrence & Associates understands that you therefore may not want to meet face-to-face with other people, especially in an office environment.
Ohio’s Governor DeWine recently issued a stay at home order for all Ohio residents. You can find some frequently asked questions about that stay at home order here. Similarly, Kentucky’s Governor Beshear has ordered all non-essential retail businesses to close and a stay at home order in Kentucky may be coming soon.
Your case is important and work must continue
Here is the status of the various court and administrative law systems in which we represent our clients, and how Lawrence & Associates is working to make sure your case continues moving forward even during the Coronavirus pandemic.
- Personal Injury – all state and federal courts are closed, so we cannot get hearings on important motions. However, routine motions are still being decided by judges without a hearing and our lawyers are pushing those motions forward to keep cases moving. While most depositions and mediations have been cancelled due to social distancing, many adjusters are still working remotely and we are pushing those adjusters to consider settlements without depositions or mediations. Our attorneys are finding creative ways to get our clients’ testimony to the adjusters or defense attorneys even while clients stay home. And, finally, while many independent medical examiners have closed their offices until May, we have found a few that remain open and are scheduling these appointments for clients who want them.
- Workers’ Compensation – all workers’ compensation hearings have been cancelled. Lawrence & Associates is working with the Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers to hold telephonic hearings whenever possible. We have also had a lot of success reaching adjusters for Kentucky workers compensation cases and for Ohio cases with privately insured employers. These cases are still reaching a resolution more frequently than most other practice areas.
- Bankruptcy – while all hearings in federal court have been cancelled, we are still able to file bankruptcies. When you file your bankruptcy, you get the automatic stay that stops creditors from calling your or filing lawsuits against you. While foreclosures have been cancelled for the time being, repossessions continue and we are seeing an uptick in unemployment related bankruptcies. Lawrence & Associates’ attorneys are meeting with these clients by video or phone for all meetings, and getting bankruptcies filed very quickly as a result.
- Social Security – all hearings are being cancelled by Administrative Law Judges (even those that are already done by video). However, we are able to make all the required filings by doing telephone appointments and uploading documents to the social security administration electronically. Since social security claims have a long wait time for a hearing, we do not think most cases’ timelines will be severely impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Tech-savvy Cincinnati lawyers
If you have an ongoing personal injury, workers’ compensation, bankruptcy, or social security case, you need to know that there is no reason for the case to stop completely in its tracks just because of Coronavirus. Lawrence & Associates was already set up to use video chatting services like Google Duo (which is really, really easy to use from a smartphone!) to meet with clients or handle meetings with other attorneys remotely. Other services we use include Google Hangouts, Skype, and Zoom. We also already had infrastructure in place to allow our staff to work from home, so the switch to social distancing and “stay in place” orders has been relatively painless.
Our firm is paperless and uses 21st century, state of the art, technology to make sure cases are handled efficiently and effectively no matter the circumstances. On top of that, Lawrence & Associates is financially sound. Even if a severe economic downturn follows the Coronavirus pandemic, we will be able to keep all of our staff to your case is not interrupted. If you are with a firm that is not able to keep up communication with you – or to make your case move forward – due to Coronavirus, you should look around and see if there might be a better home for your case.
How will you know if your law firm is set up to handle your case during the Coronavirus epidemic and any economic downturn that follows?
First, talk to your attorney about their videoconferencing abilities. Even if you aren’t familiar with videoconferencing, your law firm should be able to walk you through setting one up. The longer people are “staying in place”, the more likely it will be that we will need to start conducing depositions and mediations remotely so our cases can get resolved. Second, ask your lawyer if he or she is paperless. Papers can carry Coronavirus and cause delays when a law firm’s staff works remotely. Paperless firms can easily and quickly get documents signed by email and get those documents filed with courts where they can do some good. Third, ask your attorney about their phone system. It isn’t the first thing you think of, but an old fashioned phone system doesn’t work if people can’t go into the office. A modern phone system ought to be able to seamlessly forward your call to your attorney or paralegal even if they are required to stay at home.
If your law firm cannot answer these questions or thinks they aren’t important, now is the time to switch firms. Your legal matter could be delayed for months or years if your attorney cannot adapt to changing times, and that is unforgivable when so many Americans are facing job losses, illness, and an uncertain future. You do not have to pay extra money to switch law firms – generally the attorney that walk away from is paid through our fee, meaning that we get paid less based on the amount of work the other attorney did before we received the case. In that way, both law firms get paid for what they did without charging the client any additional money. With so much of our lives in flux and no idea what is coming next, now is the time to have a top notch legal team behind you. If you feel like your case was shoved into a cookie cutter system with thousands of other cases, or if you feel like your attorney is stuck in the 1980s, you should know it doesn’t have to be that way.