Law firms throughout New Zealand are gearing up – or down – for the Lockdown over the next month and most NZ law firms are working overtime to provide resources on the crisis for clients.
Many firms are announcing that they are essentially remaining open for business, albeit via remote working.
Major firms are all publishing bulletins, resources and reports regarding their availability to clients in unprecedented circumstances, addressing issues like the flexible approach the Commerce Commission are taking towards competition issues, contractual compliance, privacy, employment law and other matters.
Firms have set up remote working for their employees, legal and non-legal, indicating their preparedness to handle any issues from clients. Russell McVeagh has indicated it can meet client requirements through audio or video facilities.
Simpson Grierson has been rehearsing for the Alert Level 4 and indicated to clients that it’s ‘robust systems’ are fully operational and that it can provide its usual services – other than face-to-face meetings.
Interestingly, usually proactive Meredith Connell is silent on COVID-19 issues.
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Information overload with the COVID-19 crisis is clearly an issue for many clients as the ever-changing medical, economic and legal scene grapples to understand what is actually happening and what impact it has upon law firm clients.
And some commentators, such as Israeli General Counsel of legal monitoring company Attenti Group, Nir Golan (right) well known for his work in law technology and bringing more humanity back to law has suggested law firms might avoid “bombarding customers’ inbox with endless webinar invitations and long legal/force majeure coronavirus updates” and instead use the phone to make short calls to see how clients are doing and to ask them what they need now.
The firms have been quick to point out their safeguarding of staff through isolation, sanitisers and the like.
Among the provincial firms there has been high activity as principals and staff set up their home offices.
Smaller Firms Adapt . . Mainly
Whilst large firms have large tech teams and budgets, the smaller law offices have needed to adjust dramtically in some cases to providing a seamless service to their clients.
Some have simply reduced their firm offering, through necessity in some cases, but others have worked towards providing an online presence that reassures clients of their ability to provide ongoing service.
Queenstown-based Todd Walker have their lawyers set up with their home offices, posting social media images of some of the firm members at their screens.
There has been time for some whimsy too, as Todd Walker staffer Sarah Ogilvie posted an image of her Golden Retriever Brew ready with her to take calls, business-related or purely for comfort during a difficult time.
Corporate Lawyers, Too
Corporate lawyers too have obviously oved home and ILANZ president Sian Wingate was able to post her home office (above) with appropriate markings for easy ID and a hope that corporate lawyers were adapting to their new environment.
The Technology Challenge
While most lawyers are fine with the technology required to work from home, some find it challenging working with laptops, scanners and printers when they’ve not had to understand some of the more tech applications to handling their daily work.
The same applies with video conferencing and other developments required of the home-office lawyer but the example set by the ‘new law’ virtual law firms will undoubtedly be increasingly used by bricks-and-mortal law firms after the current crisis.
Among the legal resources available to firms the need to continue collaboration and meeting is important, says one tech expert. A variety of tools ranging from Facebook to Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting and Microsoft Teams is available.
However, for now, during New Zealand’s lockdown, the key is to use email, the phone . . and a sense of humour.
Author – Janet Thomas
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