How Your Practice Can Adapt to COVID-19-Related Changes
Back in March and April, when much of the country was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a common prediction held that many attorneys would be busier than ever once the shutdown ended. Indeed, with courts across the country closed, clients found their legal matters put on hold.
Whether your practice is busier than ever before or is trending with the nation’s economic slowdown, now may be a good time to add an area of practice, hire freelance help or offer “low bono” services to earn your stripes in a new area of the law.
For the Practice Drowning in a Sea of Emails
From legal aid to big-firm bankruptcy lawyers, certain practice areas see pent-up demand after quarantine and court closures or, in some cases, such as bankruptcy, heightened pandemic-related demand for legal services.
For small firms and, especially, cash-strapped solo practitioners, ramping up for what may be a temporary boom can be tricky. Taking calls, making court appearances, and keeping up with research and document preparation is often more than one attorney can manage, as hiring additional lawyers or paralegals may not be in the budget. That might explain why demand for freelance attorneys has increased.
This option might work for you if you need help with research and writing—or other work that you can easily delegate and later review. A family lawyer may consider having another attorney prepare a complaint and discovery requests, which require large blocks of time you may not have, especially if your inbox is overflowing. You can pay a service or freelance attorney a flat fee for a project, have them track their time, then charge your client the going hourly rate for legal work in your area—making a profit on those hours and freeing you to talk to more clients, attend meetings and make court appearances.
Another option to up your firm’s efficiency is adding technology that can streamline your client information to help move a case forward quickly and in an organized way. Consider adding intake software to collect client data from the moment of first contact and seamlessly feed that information into your client management software.
For the Practice Hit Hard by the Pandemic
As individuals face unemployment and small businesses surrender to new economic realities, many law practices struggle to find clients. If your practice has been sluggish since reopening, you might consider expanding into an in-demand area of practice.
For example, real estate is booming in some densely populated regions, as families flee cramped apartments searching for suburban backyards. Could you add real estate law to your practice? Or perhaps you always wanted to try a particular area of the law but didn’t have the bandwidth to explore it. Now is the moment to network, research, and take online courses or webinars. One way to start out in a new area is to offer neighbors, fellow school parents, or family members pro bono or “low bono” services. The idea is to offer fees that low- to middle-income clients can afford or free services to help your community while also building your reputation in a new practice area. As you complete cases, focus on building a cache of online reviews and ratings to expand into previously uncharted areas of practice.
If now isn’t the time to expand your practice, you can work to attract more leads through social media and your online presence. If you don’t already have them, create profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn. When appropriate, respond to posts to highlight your expertise in your particular practice area. Without offering legal advice, you can address the person’s question and suggest they contact a lawyer. You talk to them free of charge, which may result in that person hiring you, while also raising your profile among those reading the post online.
With the pandemic’s relentless toll on families, workers, and small businesses, plenty of people in your community seek help in estate planning, real estate, bankruptcy, employment law, business law, divorce and many other areas. All of those people are potential clients who can help you raise your profile while you provide much needed legal services.
Surviving—and Thriving—During Hard Times
If nothing else, these difficult times will train your practice to adapt and overcome during future economic downturns and times of crisis. Whether you are working 12-hour days and feel like you can barely keep up or have way more time on your hands than you would like, strive to improve your firm’s productivity and efficiency. Train yourself to use a new piece of software, research a legal topic of interest, network with colleagues and hire the help you need. That way, when the world returns to a semblance of normal, you’ll be ready for anything.