Top 5 Tips to Help Your Law Firm Manage the COVID-19 Pandemic

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00:01 Speaker 1: Hi, I'm Tom Martin. I'm the CEO and founder of LawDroid, the company dedicated to helping lawyers automate their law practice. I'm also a lawyer, I have 20 years of experience and I've had a law firm since 2006 which I've managed with many employees and I've done that almost entirely remotely up until I would say about seven years ago, when I went completely remote. We work in various different areas. A paralegal lives in Idaho, I live in Vancouver, Canada, although I'm a California licensed lawyer, I have four lawyers who work with me. One in Texas, one in Florida, two in California, in different parts of California, an assistant in Long Beach and some virtual assistants abroad. We all coordinate online and keep in touch and have a coherent work environment. And so what I wanna talk to you about today is the top five tips to help your law firm manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

01:15 S1: Now, because I have some experience in working virtually, I thought I'd put together this presentation to share my knowledge and experience and hopefully make things a little easier with this transition that I completely get is involuntary for everyone out there who's having to move their firm online. And so I hope that the tips and tricks that I have to share with you, help a little bit. You can always drop me a line at, and you could follow me on Twitter @LawDroid. That's L-A-W-D-R-O-I-D. So let's get started. So tip number one, I'm kind of excited to share with you because I get it, meeting expenses is probably top of mind right now. How are we gonna do that with a law firm with having to work from home, not being able to meet directly with clients? It's a difficult time. So you may have already heard of this, but I wanted to share with you that the SBA, they're funding directly disaster relief loans. And if you go to you'll find this page.

02:49 S1: I highly encourage you to click on apply for assistance because they have this new streamlined application form that makes it really easy to apply for this disaster loan. I actually went through and I applied for this about a week and a half ago. And it was a much different form, it was much more complicated, you had to upload documents and stuff. This one you don't. You pretty much just fill in the blanks, pick a couple of radio buttons and you can get through it. It also asked you at the end for your routing number, bank and account number because they actually have the $10,000 grant that they could provide to you within three business days. So that's pretty impressive.

03:43 S1: The checklist or overview of the relief programs to help meet your expenses are number one, the economic injury disaster loan that I had mentioned. The maximum amount you can get is about $2 million. I think it's based on your gross income and expenses, so they're not gonna give $2 million away to everyone, but it is gonna be in proportion to your gross income for your company, for your business. That said, the funds are unrestricted, so it doesn't have to be used solely for payroll, or for utilities, or your mortgage as we'll see later is a requirement for a different program. So the maximum loan is $2 million, it's unrestricted use. There is that $10,000 emergency grant that I mentioned where they within three days, deposit it into your account. That does have a restriction for use to payroll, mortgage, rent, utilities, and it also can be counted against the paycheck program, which I'll talk about in a second. Low fixed interest rates three and three-quarters percent, for the economic injury disaster loan. Long-term repayment up to 30 years which is fantastic. You can spread the payments back over time and make them much less painful. No pre-payment penalties, so if you're earning out more quickly, you can just pay it down and not have to worry about being penalized for that. You can also defer payments, but interest is gonna accrue during the deferral period.

05:26 S1: The paycheck protection program. Now, this is really exciting if you're a law firm owner and you're looking to stretch your dollars. Well what this loan does is it basically provides you with two and a half months of payroll coverage. They look at your average payroll and you multiply that by 2.5 and that comes out with what they will loan to you. Even better, as long as you use that money for payroll, mortgage, or rent, or utilities, there is forgiveness built into it. So you could actually have that 2.5 times your payroll for the month forgiven. So that's a good way to keep the lights on and keep people employed. So I know that a lot of people and firms have considered and probably have laid people off, but this is one way that you could potentially bring people back and at no cost to you potentially with that loan forgiveness. And the third point which you probably have heard of as well, is that the tax day, in terms of filing your taxes and paying your taxes has been pushed back from April 15 to July 15.

06:48 S1: Tip number two: Managing your staff. So when you work remotely, it's gonna be more difficult to have those personal check-ins. Of course, with staff members, keep an eye on what they're up to, review the work. It's gonna require changing some of our habits. And it's hard to change habits, but there are some tools that make it easier. Clio, for example, is one that I use to work with my staff and it keeps things very organized. Clio, they actually have two parts now. They have Clio Manage, which is this one you're seeing right here where you can manage your cases, to-dos, your calendar, billing, pretty much the back-end administration of the office as well as working directly and managing tasks with your staff members. There's also Clio Grow, which is kind of the sales funnel aspect of getting clients in the door. If you haven't, well, if you're not using Clio, I highly recommend it. If you're already using Clio Manage, you should definitely look into Grow. It used to be like Cicada and it allows you to create a sales funnel, where you can know where your leads are coming in from. And when you follow-up, you can share that information with everyone who is working on the leads, so that you're all in the same page. And you could also assign dollar values to the different leads, so you could keep track of what they might contribute to your bottom line.

08:36 S1: And given that finding clients right now is a high priority, I think having a tool to make it easier to manage those leads is fantastic. It doesn't have to be Clio. There's also other CRM like Salesforce or Pipedrive and a few others that can help you to manage your leads and other case management systems like this can help you to keep your cases organized. So your new best friend is gonna be Zoom. Actually, I'm taping today's presentation on the Zoom. It's a great way to keep that face-to-face interaction with your staff members, check in, get statuses, just show them that you're still there. The power of human contact, even though we can't make contact has really helped through video.

09:38 S1: Basecamp. So one thing about managing staff is, how do you keep on the same page? And Basecamp does a good job of doing that almost literally. As you can see here, Basecamp is a way of managing projects. The company they created is called 37signals, I think they changed their name recently to Basecamp. But what they are known for is that, they started as a design company. They've always worked remotely. One of the founders is from Denmark, the other founder I believe is from Chicago and they managed to work together and build a staff all by doing it remotely, and they've been doing this for, I think close to 20 years.

10:22 S1: So this product that's come from their work is called Basecamp and it has a message board where people can kind of post ideas and different things that they're working on, different issues in the office, the to-dos, kind of self-explanatory if you could keep track under different categories. Your group chat is for people to keep in touch with each other. Chat back and forth, it could be water cooler talk, it could be an important case information even if it's not within your case management system, people can stay in the loop through group chat. Your schedule is less your global schedule, but more of what staff members are gonna be out vacation time, sick time. Automatic check-ins is a great way of having recurring questions like, "What did you work on today?" Or, "Are you planning to be out of the office?" Or, in this case, "Are you planning to be unavailable at home?"

11:33 S1: Docs & Files is a place where you could store different policies like if you develop a new telecommunication policy, you can store it in there with anything else that comes up. Another program that you could use is called Slack, I'm sure everyone's heard of that. I personally use this and you can set up different channels and the different channels are basically conversations that you're having, but about different subjects. So, you might have like I do, one is about leads. So, the people that have to track leads, follow-up with leads are performing that sales function, they all have a conversation in the leads channel. If you're, like I do with our network phone attorneys, we keep in touch about what's going on with the members that are calling in. And so, we use that channel to manage the calls, but also for me to be in the loop for helping them prioritize different issues that might arise.

12:43 S1: Direct messages is a great way of having that one-on-one conversation where you don't wanna be blasting everyone, but when you're talking about and you want maybe some privacy or just to gossip. So the managing staff checklist is working 9 to 5, 5 days a week, gotta think it through, do you wanna keep the same times now that you're working from home or require your employees to work those hours? You may or may not. Now that they're working from home there might be different requirements, they might have to take care of the kids during the day, while the kids are not doing school, schooling from home and it might be more of evening hours. So you might wanna think about retooling the hours of the schedule. Also thinking about checking in and checking out, do you want your staff to check in and check out? I know it's a natural thought to have but I think we also need to evaluate how we evaluate the work that people do.

13:56 S1: So what I mean by that is it really comes down to the work not the hours. So the hours is something that we're used to measuring staff by because they come to the office, they are either late to work, earlier to leave and that's kind of the thing that we're managing but the hours really don't indicate that well, what the quality of the work is, the quality of the work is really what we are seeing across our desk and what we're providing to the clients. So as long as they're producing good quality work, the hours and having a requirement of X amount of hours per day may not be as indicative of that. So trust but verify, review the work. I suggest you use in your email when you're talking to people or if you're messaging on Slack, try to use animated GIFs or emojis to convey your sentiment because sometimes that gets lost a lot of times in conversation, that's text-based and you wanna let people know that maybe you're not mad or that you're just joking or something like that to keep it light, texting could get rather cut and dry if you don't include stuff like that.

15:23 S1: Something that I do with my staff is I try to include treats or games, stuff that's fun to look forward to, we have a sweepstakes at the end of every month where we kinda jump on that group chat on Slack and then I have a spinning wheel that everybody's name is on and we spin it, I post some emojis and GIFs about somebody beating the drums to get excited for the wheel spinning and then at the end of it somebody gets picked randomly and gets a gift, an Amazon gift card which right now you can still get Amazon gifts delivered to your door.

16:06 S1: So one thing to deal with staff is feeling left out, so to try to cut against that we wanna use video like I said, as much as we can, keep that face-to-face. One way to do that is virtual happy hours, you've probably seen a ton of those posted on Twitter or emailed to you, invites for that, that's one way to do it, I would just suggest doing it in a way where people don't feel compelled to do it, those who want to can hang out but don't make it like a work requirement that they have to and so that's the many-to-many, but the one-to-one is that usual water cooler talk that people would have the way to maintain that is through direct messaging or even in one-to-one video meeting but you wanna make sure that if you do it that that isn't a public link that's out there for other people to jump on.

17:09 S1: Takes us to tip number three: Setting client expectations. So one way to set client expectations is to have a portal. Communication is key. So you wanna be able to provide clients with information about their case because your clients are gonna be wondering what about me, are you forgetting about me, my case, what's going on? This is a client portal that is hosted by Clio and it allows a client to check in, they don't have to be bothered, [chuckle] you may not be available so they could check in on their case, they can see if there's any invoices that are outstanding, what activities have happened, what documents are in their file, what calendar items are coming up and so this is a great thing to keep them in the loop and if they're not aware of it you could email them to let them know that this is one of the ways in which you're keeping the communication open during this time.

18:23 S1: One of my clients on the legal tech side is Erin Levine and she is a family law attorney in the East Bay and she's done a great job of communicating information about COVID-19 and what her policy is and providing ways for people to keep in touch with her including our chatbot and a forum so they could schedule legal consultation with her. So I'd highly recommend that you have some kind of messaging on your website that says, "What your policy is about COVID? How are you gonna be communicating differently with your clients? How are you gonna be available?"

19:07 S1: Tom Spiegel, he has this video on his website, where it actually directly addresses the coronavirus and how that's impacting his firm and how he's gonna be dealing with clients and potential clients. I think that's fantastic. It's one way to stay ahead of the curve, communicate directly with your clients. So, the client expectations checklist is, keep in mind the client's gonna be thinking, "What about me?" I would encourage you to have a one-on-one conversation with your clients, if you can. I don't know how long your client list is, but if you can have a one-on-one phone call with each of them, that would be fantastic, just to put them at ease, let them know that you're there and answer any questions they have about how you're gonna keep in touch, and how you're gonna be pushing their case forward or what delays there are.

20:06 S1: Email blast, you have seen, I have seen, everyone has seen, a ton of email blast, pain our inbox from every corporation under the sun, some of which we probably forgot about, letting us know what their COVID policy is. Because of that and because people are just putting all those emails in their spam box at this point, I would encourage you to have that one-on-one-contact, could be the phone call or a video call. If you do have to send out an email, I would include a link, maybe to your webpage or to a video that you've created, so that you can maintain that one-on-one personal touch by putting a video together that addresses all of these different issues. And that way, you have it in the can, you could save it, share it with everyone and not have to repeat yourself a thousand times.

21:09 S1: So, talk to clients about court delays, talk to them about government agency delays. In California, for example, the court pretty much took everything off calendar the next 60 days. And then, after that 60 days, they're gonna be considering how to reschedule everything. So, clearly, that's gonna have an impact on client's cases and you just need to be clear with them about that additional amount of time to be patient and that we really don't know until we know, until the court gets back in session and starts rescheduling cases. Government agency delays is kind of the same deal. I know that in LA County for example, the county recorder's office, that records deeds in California is closed. People are scrambling. Some deeds have to be filed by a certain deadlines, some don't. But there's lots of questions. If you mail them in, will they be filed on the date that they receive them at the office by mail or is it gonna be stamped the date that they get around to the filing it? We don't know. So, there's a lot of unknowns and that will lead to some uncertainty and stress from your clients. But to let them know that you're keeping tabs on it and that you're providing them with the latest information that you have will build confidence in you that you're still the right legal representative for them and that you're trying to do right by them.

22:45 S1: How to keep in touch? Let them know what's the best way for you. For you, it might be by email. It might be text message, [chuckle] if you're brave. But you wanna make sure that they know how to keep in touch with you and that you know how to keep in touch with them. This might be a time that there might be some change in terms of what contact information works for different clients, so you wanna keep that updated. We have time, right now, so it's one way that we can catch up on keeping our records current and at the same time, keeping that lifeline open to our clients. Getting paid. If you haven't done it already, incorporating pay by credit card would be fantastic. Some clients you're gonna have a difficult time, it might be tight right now. Some of them may have been laid off, so if you aren't already offering for them to pay by credit cards, you could do that and allow them to spread that out over time. Also, it's a good opportunity to catch up with invoicing. If you have a stack of accounts that need to be paid, there's time, so there's time to also invoice for those accounts and follow up to make sure that they get paid. Again, there might be difficulty in paying, but there's no time like the present to catch up with the invoicing.

24:25 S1: Tip number four for working at home. So, many of you, like me, probably have your kids studying from home, just like you. So, they'll be at home, you're home, you're trying to get work done, they're trying to get their school work done and it could lead to a mess. It could be difficult to concentrate. You might have seen this video where professor Robert Kelly was having a video interview with BBC, and his daughter walks in. It's really silly and funny, but I think what it does is it, you know, pre-COVID, kinda just poked, you know, poked a hole in the professionalism that we kind of think we have to carry ourselves with, every single day. And I think the pandemic, you know, dealing with COVID, has brought us down a few notches in terms of the amount of formality that we're requiring of each other during this time. And that could be a relief, and it also makes us a bit more human. I don't know if you've watched Jimmy Fallon or any of the late night show hosts, but seeing them broadcasting from home, hanging out with their kids, it's definitely not the same production value, but it makes them seem much more approachable and human. It actually makes some of it a lot funnier and we need to laugh right now.

26:12 S1: This year, it's kind of like the same thing that happened to my client Erin Levine, who's the family lawyer in the East Bay. She was having, let me move myself for a second so you could see this. She was having an important podcast interview with Jack Newton of Clio and Erin, she's turning back to talk to her daughter because her daughter just walked in on her while they're having this interview and she's like, "You can be on your iPad until I'm done." Which is probably the new catchphrase for a lot of parents out there. So, video is great to keep in touch. Kids are gonna be kids, don't worry about it, we'll get through it. And so, the working at home checklist.

27:03 S1: Find a place where you can isolate yourself, where you could think, if possible, with all everything that goes on at home. I try to set a schedule and keep to it. At the beginning, the first few days of this, I found myself getting up at 10, sometimes later, just because you didn't have to get up and go to work. So, try to keep the schedule. Talk with your family members, let them know how important it is for you to have that time to concentrate. Let them know when you're not gonna be working. Share that schedule with them, try to acknowledge their commitments. For the kids, the times that they're gonna have to be working, studying. And so that you are on the same page that you're both in the same boat and they're trying to work through this by being sensitive to each other's needs.

28:12 S1: One way to do this is visual cues. It might be a good idea to have an actual open or close sign, like on a store on your door. So like if you go in to, let's say, the guest bedroom and you're working, and maybe you need, you especially need some quiet time, 'cause you're talking to your client or you're talking to some colleagues, that you could put that open sign out there and the kids or your spouse will know that that's a time that you really need to for things to be quiet and to concentrate. Headphones, if you can't do that, if you don't have a separate room and you have to work in the kitchen for example, using some headphones is one way to both enjoy some music, but also be able to get into that zone where you can get the work done that you need to. If it's putting together a motion or writing a brief of some kind, that's one way to isolate and concentrate on what you're doing. Dress for success. Sometimes, maybe, you wanna not wear [chuckle] the jogging pants or be too casual. You can dress up for work, have a nice suit. You're not going anywhere, but it might be a way to get into that flow, into the work mindset and roll with it. Don't take life too seriously. You can't take things too seriously right now. We're trying to do our best, we're trying to protect our families by staying at home, flattening the curve and need to roll with the punches.

30:01 S1: Tip number five, keeping it real. So, there's more than work and do what works for you. If it's yoga out in the backyard, if it's hanging out with the kids and having a movie night. I know I've had a lot of those. So, here's the keeping-it-real checklist. Make sure to build in some "me" time. Go for your morning walk, stay active, maybe put a yoga mat out, meditate. Don't forget to stretch, you're gonna be in your chair all day long. But take some time for tea time, for coffee breaks, read a book. Take a break and read a book. There is plenty of time to catch up on the stack of books you might have next to your bed. Play time, you know. Playing with the kids, with our pets, taking that time out to decompress, to not be solely driven by the work. Have a date night.

31:11 S1: Jimmy Kimmel has, I think his wife instituted formal Fridays, where people across the country now with the #FormalFridays. They get dressed, they put the ties on, tuxedo, formal dresses for Friday, just to have some fun and change it up a little bit. And remember, life is beautiful. We get to spend time with our family, we get to spend time with ourselves and not be driven solely by work. There'll be plenty of time for that. So, thank you for spending some time with me today. I hope the tips that I have shared with you can help a little and make life a little easier. If you'd like to follow up with me, you could email me at, or follow me on Twitter, @LawDroid. Again, thank you for spending some time with me. Stay healthy and take care.​​​​​​​