The Impact of COVID-19 for Law Firms
COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, has quickly become one of the most far-reaching major events to impact everyone’s life across the globe. Our efforts to limit the spread of this novel disease have led to drastic measures that have not been previously experienced by the vast majority of us. It remains to be seen all the specific ways that COVID-19 will impact law firms, but we can already see some of the unique ways in which the pandemic will make waves.
Law Firms In General
Due to the general slowdown in business, most law firms are seeing a decrease or freezing of attorney hiring and it is unclear when this will end. Attorneys from all corners are learning to work from home and adapting their practices to a world filled with videoconferences and paperless transactions.
Different Areas of Law Face Different Challenges and Opportunities
- Courtrooms will see the greatest impact from COVID-19. In addition to fewer cases being filed, courts are postponing hearings, canceling or rescheduling depositions, and extending deadlines while they determine the best way to conduct business while honoring shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders. Clients who may be experiencing cash shortfalls are also instructing their counsel to hold back on pursuing costly litigation.
- Corporate lawyers may also see a downturn in business as companies conserve their cash. Private equity and large-scale business expansions are already in distress as the markets deal with a tumultuous future in the short-term and an almost certain recession.
- Attorneys who focus on financial activities have already started assisting clients who are re-evaluating their funding sources or looking to access new ones.
- Firms that engage in estate planning are beginning to feel a sense of urgency from their older clients as the pandemic continues. They may be dealing with older clients who are facing a future that could end in a COVID-19-related incapacitation or death.
- Employment lawyers are seeing a boost in the number of clients who have been fired or laid off and now need assistance with navigating unemployment, severance packages, employment-related restrictions on future employment, and other hurdles.
- Bankruptcy lawyers will also likely be needed if our economy continues to suffer as a result of COVID-19.
- A likely, but often unanticipated, result will be the increase in entrepreneurship and startups once the pandemic subsides. New niches in business will be created and law firms that assist startups with the myriad of issues accompanying the establishment and management of a new business can expect to be in demand.
Looking To The Future
While the struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic can feel overwhelming and insurmountable, it is important to stay calm and think about what the long-term future holds. Perhaps it is time to pivot your business to an area of law where history has shown there will be plenty of work in the future. Maybe a restructuring of your law firm is in order. The main thing to keep in mind is to stay calm and do your best to prepare for what is to come.
About the Author
Graham Sutliff is the co-founder of Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm. Graham is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law, and he has been actively trying personal injury cases for over fifteen years.