MEETING WITH AN ATTORNEY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Posted on Sunday, May 17th, 2020 at 10:00 am
Ohio and Kentucky residents know their states are re-opening slowly, and the exact guidelines – Are restaurants open this week? How about bars? – can be really tough to pin down. Kentucky’s re-opening dates are published on the state’s official website with a handy poster explaining the guidelines here. Meanwhile, in Ohio there is a similar re-opening plan with dates that only vary from the Kentucky schedule by a few weeks at most.
Law firms are just one more industry that is trying to stay one step ahead while complying with all the state regulations. Since Lawrence & Associates has locations in both West Chester, Ohio and Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, we are combining both states’ re-opening guidelines into one plan to have both our offices physically reopen on June 15, 2020. We are waiting until June 15th because many of our employees are not able to get childcare earlier. Even where childcare facilities will be open, the restrictions on the number of children in a single room mean some employees might not be able to send their children in on the first day the facility opens. Until then, Lawrence & Associates will continue to represent our clients while working from home. We’ve made a few posts explaining how our focus on using the latest technology to achieve better results for our clients made the mandatory office shutdown very easy for us. You can see a video here explaining how our phones, email, and fax are all internet based and work normally even when the employees are working from home.
Our transition was so seamless, we even managed to achieve over $1,000,000.00 for our clients during the shutdown. In addition, we’ve been able to continue keeping our clients informed using video options such as Google Duo, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and by telephone.
We know that your case is important and that work must continue. We recently produced another video talking about how we’ll manage our cases and personnel as we transition back into the West Chester and Fort Mitchell offices.
And while all this is going on, court systems are continuing to adjust and plan their own re-opening schedules. Here’s a little insight into how the court systems are planning for the next six weeks.
Personal Injury –The federal courthouse in Cincinnati recently re-opened. Kentucky is re-opening courthouses on a limited basis starting June 1, 2020. Despite that date, we expect that many routine motions and other issues will still have their hearings by video or teleconference due to restrictions on the number of people allowed in a courtroom. Lawrence & Associates’ attorneys have been attending or hosting depositions and mediations using Zoom. Important documents are being signed by Docusign so everyone can remain remote. Doctor’s offices’ re-opening has allowed us to get medical records in more quickly, and we are still asking clients if they’d prefer a medical records review by a doctor instead of an in-person exam, so your case can move forward despite your comfort level.
Workers’ Compensation – all workers’ compensation hearings are now moving forward normally, although mostly by telephone. Lawrence & Associates is seeing very little slowdown in the Workers’ Compensation system at this time, as both the Ohio hearing officers and Kentucky Administrative Law Judges have adapted to telephonic hearings. In fact, the telephone hearings have been so successful that we hope both systems continue to use them as a matter of course in the future. If you are in a workers’ compensation claim, you should see very little or no slow down at this time.
Bankruptcy– Much like the previous entry, there should be no slowdown in your ability to file bankruptcy cases. All hearings in federal court have been reset by video or telephone, and there was never a break in our ability to file bankruptcies. While this practice area requires client to produce a lot of documentation, Lawrence & Associates has a website set up where clients can upload all their documents with just the click of a button. There’s no more need to bring stacks of paperwork to an attorney’s office. If you need to file bankruptcy – and so many do because of the coronavirus-related layoffs – you should be able to hire an attorney and do so without leaving your home.
Social Security – although many social security hearings were remote even before the pandemic, this system has been slower to reset hearings than more. While Lawrence & Associates can still meet with clients by phone or video, and can get your claim filed, the hearings still haven’t been set at the same rate we saw before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, those first steps that can be done are still very important. Getting your initial application and follow-up motion for reconsideration filed are important pre-requisites to a hearing, so hiring an attorney and filing those documents still moves your case along the path of a successful disability claim. Lawrence & Associates’ social security disability attorneys expect to see many backlogged hearings set in the next month, but so far have not seen actual dates.
Tech-savvy Cincinnati lawyers
Our attorneys continued to be amazed and frustrated at the number of people who report that their current attorney is unreachable because the attorney’s office is closed, or who report that their cases are going nowhere because the courts are closed. This isn’t true, and if you’re being told these things you should find a new attorney. Good law firms with even a minimal grasp of modern technology should have no problem getting settlements or completing bankruptcies at this time. For those personal injury cases that can’t be settled, it is true that you cannot get a jury trial and that can be an impediment to moving a case forward. But ask your attorney about getting a bench trial done by video, because many courts are experimenting with this format to finalize cases without settlements. And above all, make sure you have an attorney that can keep you informed and move your case forward in case the COVID-19 cases start to rise again. While we all hope the quarantine is about to be over for good, no one knows. If businesses do shut their doors, will your case shut down or keep going? The decision you make today could affect you in the near future.