More law firm reopening guidance, this time from the Indiana State Bar Association
Now that some states are flattening the curve, guidelines are being established to allow phased reopenings of businesses, including law firms. Of course, no one’s ever attempted to reopen businesses after a worldwide pandemic, sowe’re in uncharted territory. No doubt you’re wondering how to go about the reopening process in an efficient and safe manner.
Fortunately, there’s guidance out there to help you do just that. In my last column, I shared advice from the New York State Bar Association’s guide on reopening law firms. This week let’s take a look at the guidance provided in another recently released resource: the Indiana State Bar Association’s Guide, “Reopening Your Practice.”
At the outset of this Guide, the Committee acknowledged that the guidelines were simply advisory. Because firms have different sets of resources, every firm won’t necessarily be in a position to ensure all that each and every piece of advice is implemented. That being said, the Committee emphasized that the overarching focus for any firm seeking to reopen, regardless of its financial circumstances, should be to ensure the safety of law firms employees and clients as best as possible.
Next, the Committee moved on to providing advice for firms in the process of returning their staff to the office. First, the Committee laid out the primary categories that firms need to address prior to reopening a law office. The Committee explained that there are six readiness essentials that firms need to think:
- Control access points: Consider protocols for safety and health checks, building reception areas, shipping and receiving, elevators, and visitor policies.
- Prepare the building and workplace: Consider cleaning plans, pre-return inspections, HVAC, and mechanical checks.
- Prepare the workforce: Develop plans to mitigate anxiety by creating policies for deciding when each employee returns and establishing an employee communications plan.
- Create a social distancing plan: Consider options to keep workers at a safe distance, which may include new seating arrangements and establishing office traffic patterns.
- Reduce touch points and increase cleaning: Consider keeping doors open and develop protocols for cleaning work areas and common areas.
Communicate for confidence: Recognize that employees may have concerns about returning to work, so communicate transparently, and listen and survey regularly.
In the remainder of the Guide, the Committee focused on each readiness essential in order, providing a detailed explanation of the factors that firms should keep in mind when addressing that particular category. For example, for the first consideration - controlling access points - the Committee advised that firms will need to establish procedures that control access points in the firm. Those may include: 1) erecting barriers to enforce social distancing, 2) closing off certain entrances and exit points, 3) implementing visitor health protocols, and 4) posting signs around the office that clearly set forth expectations for everyone who enters.
The Committee covered each category of readiness in kind, so make sure to read the entire guide for specific recommendations for each one. Once you’ve done so, create a transition committee, as discussed in my prior column, that will be responsible for establishing a plan for the return to the office using the recommendations provided in both reopening guides. Once you’ve done so, your firm will be well on its way to successfully reopening it doors, as safely as possible, with the health of your employees and clients top of mind.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney, author, journalist, and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase law practice management software for small law firms. She is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes legal technology columns for Above the Law and ABA Journal and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. You can follow her on Twitter at @nikiblack or email her at [email protected].