Pandemic practice

The Coronavirus presents a significant challenge to all businesses. Professional services are no different.

For the most part, legal staff need not mix with clients to any great extent – emails, telephones and electronic signatures have largely done away with the need to physically meet with clients.

Rather, the threat is more likely to come from a member of your own staff contracting the virus. So what measures have you adopted to keep your staff well and your practice operating?

Here’s some simple steps to keep the lights on.

  1. Check your insurance. Your business interruption cover is likely to exclude the virus once a pandemic has been declared, but check anyway.
  2. You have to ensure that everyone understands that personal hygiene is the big issue. So there needs to be hand sanitiser everywhere! If anyone leaves the office, they should apply the sanitiser upon their return. Ask your reception to remind everyone upon their return. The Health Department has emphasised the importance of good hand and respiratory hygiene including:
    • cleaning hands with soap and water for 30 seconds or using alcohol-based hand rubs
    • covering nose and mouth with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing
    • avoiding contact with anyone who has symptoms such as fever, a cough, sore throat, fatigue, and shortness of breath
    • staying home if you are feeling unwell.
  3. Increase the frequency of office cleaning especially ‘touchpoints’ such as door handles and handrails, and photocopiers. If anyone exhibits some of the above symptoms, ensure they go home and that their desks are thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant.
  4. Advise everyone to avoid crowded venues as best they can. Public
    transport is a health risk and all staff using public transport need to be especially vigilant. Query the need to attend external seminars.
  5. Ensure as many people as possible are able to work from home. With more people using home internet, it can get really slow. Get backup internet via mobile data with extra downloads.
  6. Many staff just need their notepads and mobile devices. Advise your staff to carry their devices with them always, just in case tomorrow is their first remote day.
  7. Cyber criminals are still looking to create havoc. Remind staff to be vigilant while working from home.
  8. With more remote working, your IT infrastructure for remote volumes will be under pressure. Check with your telcos and obtain some additional capacity, and do the same for core infrastructure.
  9. Speak to your IT about installing firewalls on staff devices to ensure working from home on their own devices does not diminish office IT security.
  10. It will be necessary to keep in touch with people working from home so consider a daily telephone hook-up just to touch base and remind people at home that they are still part of the team and they still need to record their chargeable time.
  11. Wherever possible, substitute online video conferencing for physical meetings both internal and external.
  12. Encourage staff to get their flu vaccination. It may not defeat the current virus, but if anyone catches the normal flu their immune system will be weakened. Consider having a nurse attend the office
    to immunise as many people as possible. Herd immunity works in offices too.
  13. This virus is a once-in-a-generation event, so businesses are going to
    adopt a wait-and-see approach which regrettably but inevitably will mean less work for legal practices. In this context, you should put any thoughts of employing new staff on hold.

Graeme McFadyen has been a senior law firm manager for more than 20 years. He is Chief Operating Officer of Misso Legal Consulting.

This story was originally published in Proctor April 2020.

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