Understanding family law client changes during the pandemic
As most family lawyers will attest, the pandemic continued, and in fact, somewhat increased, the need for family law services. After all, there is nothing like being quarantined with a spouse to test the limits of a marital relationship, and for some couples, they came to the unfortunate realization that their marriage could not survive. In addition to the spike in divorces, the pandemic resulted in novel disputes concerning custody. Parents who could not agree on whether their children should attend in-person school or activities or receive a COVID vaccination when eligible found themselves reaching out to their attorneys for assistance. Those who lost their jobs or were out of work or whose work diminished could not necessarily sustain the same level of support or alimony and also needed legal help in adjusting their obligations. All of these new issues, coupled with the normal day-to-day family law issues have resulted in most family law practices being busier than ever.
Nonetheless, all of this uncertainty in the world and the realization that things can turn on a dime, also affected how we practice family law and how we will continue to develop business in the future. After all, in-person marketing, whether it be conferences, events, or even a lunch meeting are few and far between, and even if they do occur, being masked and socially distant makes it pretty difficult to engage in business development.
Use of digital resources and social presence
Everyone, and in particular, potential clients, have become much more reliant on computer research. This is why it is more important than ever for family lawyers to use digital resources to promote their practice. Keeping web bios up to date and having a social media presence that can inform prospective clients is more critical than ever before. And since prospective clients are seeking to address their concerns as quickly as possible, keeping content current and informative on social media and web bios is a way to connect and develop future business.
Expectations to meet virtually and increased accessibility
Even the way we meet clients and conduct hearings in many instances has changed. There is now an expectation that lawyers will have the capability to connect remotely whether by Zoom or another source. Oftentimes, it is more convenient for clients to meet over Zoom than to go to the lawyer’s office for an in-person, face to face, meeting. In some jurisdictions, hearings are being conducted remotely, changing the entire way that we historically practiced. Thus, the lawyers who are technologically savvy have a much greater advantage in satisfying the demands of the modern-day client.
Because as a society, working no longer means going into an office to work, clients have a greater expectation that lawyers will be available 24/7. There is no longer a concept of being out of the office and unavailable given that there is no more office! As such, being available and accessible is more important than ever for retaining existing clients and developing new business.
Desire to be understood and its impact on innovative approaches
Now, more than ever, when stress is higher for everyone, the family lawyer’s role of counselor is truly emphasized. Having patience and understanding is needed more than ever before, as well as the legal acumen to think creatively about our rapidly changing personal situations so that the necessary legal arguments can be crafted. While family law matters were never defined as “cookie-cutter”, there was certain predictability and repetitiveness of legal issues. Now, because of the changing dynamic of our personal lives and financial situations, the lawyer who is innovative and takes the time to delve into these new issues, is the one who will attract new clients and continue to develop business.
While the negative impacts of the pandemic are clear, it has, nonetheless, changed the way we practice family law and develop business in all the ways mentioned, and it will undoubtedly be a different practice going forward in the days to come. Thus adaptability is the key to developing and maintaining a successful family law practice.