When the pandemic started a year ago, many industries experienced changes in their work arrangements. Even as essential service providers can work on-site, some opted to allow some employees to work from home. The legal professionals also experienced the same situation as some states consider paralegals as essential service providers.
Some law offices remain open for on-site work arrangements for paralegals and staff that support employees who work remotely. Some paralegals also have work-from-home arrangements with their offices.
But the changes in the legal professions are not limited to the work arrangements of legal professionals. Lawyers had to balance their professional responsibilities with their relationships with their clients in the context of the health crisis. They had to make sure they comply with the guidelines set by the authorities. Here are some effects of the pandemic on the legal profession.
Low Client Demand
With the pandemic restrictions limiting people to their homes, lawyers saw a decrease in the number of clients requiring their legal services. Many legal professionals experienced considerable disruptions in their business, with some closing due to lack of clients.
Its available staff also declined as some of them caught the virus while others are isolated and couldn’t join virtual meetings due to connectivity issues. The situation worried some lawyers who thought about the future of their practice. Many of the lawyers experienced changes in their daily operations.
On the other hand, the clients also expressed similar concerns about their current condition. They were anxious about making a living, particularly those who lost their jobs due to the health crisis. With this, they may put off any legal issues they will encounter until everything goes back to normal.
Increase in Potential Coronavirus-related Claims
Even as many law firms struggled at the start of the pandemic, there may be an increase in the number of claims related to the coronavirus pandemic. These claims can be applicable in some areas of practice in the legal profession. Lawyers can consider these claims as a new market in the profession due to the uniqueness of the situation.
These claims related to business disputes that emerged due to the pandemic include breach of partnership’s agreement, breach of fiduciary duties, and disputes between debtors and creditors. The lawyers can expect more business owners looking for their service in these situations. The increase may also result in law firms getting the assistance of process service providers to help deliver legal documents.
Use of Digital Technology
Similar to the other industries, the legal profession will also see an increase in the use of digital technology. One of the more popular tools during the pandemic is video conferencing tools. These tools allow lawyers to see new clients even if they are not in the same location. It also facilitates depositions, mediations, and other court activities.
Aside from videoconferencing tools, digital contracts are already widely accepted in the industry. Even as some members of the legal community are resistant to change, the pandemic may change their perception of technology in their profession.
At this point, virtual offices may replace brick-and-mortar offices and allow lawyers to save on overhead costs. Additionally, legal research databases will facilitate the research the lawyers will need for the cases they are handling.
Increase in Employment Lawsuits
Lawsuits and disputes due to employment issues also increased during the pandemic. One of the reasons for these lawsuits is when an employer requires employees to work on-site without implementing appropriate safety measures to protect the employees’ health. These safety measures aim to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace. When the employer does not implement these measures, it will open them to lawsuits from employees who feel anxious about the situation.
Another reason for a lawsuit is the employer’s interference in granting Family, and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave from work after the employee’s doctor recommends self-isolation since the employee is exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms. If the employee finds out he was fired for taking the leave. The employer can expect a lawsuit.
Chinese-American employees may also feel discriminated against at work due to their ethnicity. Even as the other employees are allowed to work from home, the Chinese-American employees may not be given the same privilege.
These lawsuits and disputes keep lawyers busy even during the pandemic. And it may continue even after the pandemic ends.
The pandemic affected all industries across the country, including the legal industry. While it made it challenging to practice their profession, lawyers coped with the situation and gradually got back up on their feet even in the middle of the pandemic.