Special to California Business Journal.
The legal industry has not escaped the devastating economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Just like many other businesses in a variety of fields, the pandemic has caused some legal firms to lay off employees or completely cease to exist. The challenge has been in trying to overcome a slowdown of the cash flow, particularly for legal practices such as personal injury and evictions. Those types of legal firms handle cases where the need for representation is urgent.
During this pandemic, certain court operations must go on. For example, proceedings for child custody and visitation in family court and hearings for criminal bonds are considered essential activities. Even so, there are many circumstances where some courthouses have found it too difficult to adapt to the sudden limitations brought on by COVID-19. In several cities, they have closed the courthouses with no assurance of when they will reopen.
As many business owners step up on their collection actions in anticipation of layoffs, other businesses are implementing new ways to stay afloat. Requesting credit line extensions from their banks is one strategy legal firms are trying, in light of the halting of business processes due to the ongoing pandemic.
Amongst the chaos, there is hope. Tim Dominguez, COO and Trial Attorney at The Dominguez Firm, believes the attorneys that are receptive to adapting to change will find opportunities to thrive in the heart of the pandemic. Mr. Dominguez states that “In a post-COVID-19 world, personal injury attorneys were certainly not immune to its effects on business operations. Now more than ever, attorneys are utilizing technology in ways that may have previously been scoffed at, such as the use of electronic signatures, effecting service by email, utilizing video depositions and mediations, and ensuring injured clients continue to receive safe and sanitary medical treatment.”
He continues, “Additionally, personal injury attorneys are feeling a sharp decline in new cases due to the effects of State and County stay-at-home orders. Less traffic on the roads equates to fewer auto accidents. Less patronage in public places means fewer premises liability incidents. However, with any change in the world, enterprising attorneys can find riches in the niches. There are and will continue to be an abundance of COVID-related injury claims that present avenues of redress for the injured and novel opportunities for the attorneys who will represent them.”
Conducting work from home as opposed to commuting to a brick and mortar office has become a necessity. And because non-essential business workers were mandated to stay safe at home, the legal industry’s view on how to learn is changing. It is coming around to accepting law school distance learning as a viable option for serious educational advancement. As we move beyond COVID-19, tech companies, business schools, and learning centers that specialize in computer science will offer legal training courses.
Several law firms are doing well because they have grabbed a hold of what technology has to offer them right now. Videoconferencing is not new, but it is certainly more utilized by every industry during the quarantine. With new business startups occurring more often due to permanent layoffs, business lawyers are becoming more sought after.
Business lawyers have found success in niche markets. Sectors where the market was once minimal, now experience a rapid increase in demand. Due to the pandemic, more businesses are seeking the consultation of employment lawyers for employee matters such as layoffs and safety.
The shift to remote work which requires digital technology usage. This fact by far is what the COVID-19 pandemic has done to transform the legal industry.