The COVID-19 has developed some unusual bonds among law firm that might normally be competing with one another as they work in their newly-forged partnerships to meet client needs in a time of economic mayhem.
In Florida, law firms have created ‘Task Forces’ that assist clients, both commercial and individual. Coral Gables attorney Luis Salazar has created the Florida Business Community Task Force, a pop-up legal service for local businesses worried about the economic problems created by the Pandemic.
“Communities bounce back when they work together. The idea of a loner surviving is good for the movies, but it’s not real,” he said. “So I wanted to pull together a group of firms that are a similar size to mine that have different skill sets, that bring different practice areas and knowledge,” he told DailyBusinessReview.
The task force set up goes beyond law firms to also include professionals in accounting, marketing, finance and other sectors.
What started with mini seminars on critical topics has expanded into pooling expertise to help particular clients. They’re conducting a survey of commercial banks to determine what they’re doing in response to borrower requests for extensions, breaches of loan confidence and other issues.
“It’s been reassuring to know that we have a mix of individuals who are available to address any kind of issues that clients come up with,” Salazar said.
There have been other ‘Covid Co-opts’ developing too with Schlesinger Law Group founder Michael Schlesinger in Miami has joined forces with Mark Raymond of Nelson Mullins and other attorneys to offer free legal advice to clients, friends of clients and others — particularly those confused about the payroll relief act and how to tackle layoffs and furloughs.
“Although we are adversaries, everyone realizes that this is a crisis,” Schlesinger said. “We’re working together on extensions, and I see, except for maybe one or two exceptions, a heightened degree of professionalism and good faith with colleagues.”
Raymond said he’s seem a similar sense of collegiality between lawyers who’ve agreed to put less important cases aside to focus on more pressing issues — like providing pro bono assistance to people with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems who’ve been detained by immigration authorities.
Schlesinger and Raymond said COVID-19 has shown their colleagues that work is not life.
“People are hurting, and tending to their needs far outstrips the need to file another document in the court,” Raymond said.
The report also shows that many other lawyers including Rennert Vogel Mandler & Rodriguez in Miami has partnered with bankruptcy and insurance attorneys from multiple firms, including Genovese Joblove and Battista, Ver Ploeg & Marino and Levine Kellogg Lehman Schneider + Grossman to produce a COVID-19 task force.
“It has been heartening to see the willingness of our strategic partners to collaborate in this multidisciplinary response group ensuring proper legal advice for our clients,” an attorney from Rennert Vogel said.
Similarly, transactional attorney Jessica Shraybman of Shraybman Law in Miami has teamed with local litigators, who’ve been helping her firm understand what its protections are and calling to ask her how about tweaking the tone of their messaging to clients.
The uncertainty faced by clients has created stress and anxiety, but Shraybman says that she has also enjoyed the collegiality and friendly conversations with litigators with whom she might often be engaged in a more combative relationship.
“Most of the time when you’re getting an email or a phone call from a litigator it’s not usually with good news, so it’s nice to be having these conversations out of the context of an actual litigation,” Shraybman said. “There’s kind of a general sentiment around the legal practice that we are adversarial and that we are intimidating and all of this, but with the conversations I’ve been having, it makes me wonder if maybe that will have a lasting impact.”
COVID-19 has allowed for a unique mashup.
“That might be wishful thinking, but maybe this will lead us to take a step closer to starting things from a place of collaboration and trust rather than skepticism and animosity,” Shraybman said.
Covid Mashup Changes
A wide variety of attorneys are involved in the ‘Covid mashup, so that litigators, transactional attorneys, estate planning lawyers, project development specialists and others have worked together to keep track of an influx of rushed but well-intentioned government regulations, so they can quickly translate what they mean to clients.
“It really takes a big team to digest everything,” Micovic said. ”When you have something like this happen and there’s all of these regulations being put out, there’s also, unfortunately, a lot of misinformation out there. So we’ve really taken it upon ourselves to stay on top of everything and make sure we’re able to get info out to our clients and to others, even.”
But they say the global crisis has forced collaboration that wouldn’t normally have happened, revealing just how interdependent some practices areas really are.
“I think these interrelationships that we didn’t know existed or weren’t aware of or weren’t focused on are going be more important going forward,” Chibbaro said. “And given the friendships and camaraderie that have developed on our team under stress, if there’s a small silver lining I think that’s one of them.”
The Covid crisis and the resulting Covid Co-opt approach has seen law firms swapping notes about how they should or are responding to the pandemic. The communication is more fluid and regular rather than the more infrequent discussions that might usually occur.
The Florida law firms appear to have been deveoping a new collegiate approach that provides important help to not only clients – but also to the lawyers dealing with never-seen-before economic, social and legal issues.
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