More about Stress and COVID-19: Connect, Talk, and Take Control

If you are feeling anxious or stressed, you are in good company. The coronavirus is a triple threat of worry. We are concerned for our health, the safety of family and friends, and the viability of our practices. What can we do?

Don’t Brush it Off

Before you tune out … Are you having difficulty concentrating? Been making small mistakes? Is doing work the last thing you want to deal with right now? Do you sense staff or colleagues might be having some of these reactions?

Please read this post. Even if you’re powering through this like a champ, someone else may not be.

Make Safe Social Connections

Make regular phone calls – to colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Send texts, email, video conference. Do more than conduct business when reaching out for work. Offer support. You’ll get it back in return. It’s not just a saying – we really are in this together.

Once you start the habit of connecting, keep it up. Use your calendar to schedule time for daily calls and contacts.

Get Up and Out

Get out of the house. Take advantage of the uplifting benefits of going on walks with household family members or pets. If the situation dictates, walk alone. Give a friendly wave or exchange a few words at a distance with others who are out and about.

Take Care of Yourself

Walking will help. So will turning off the news and putting down devices. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Eat healthy.

Dodge the Myths, Rumors, and Hype

Rely on official sources for information, including your county health department, Oregon Health Authority, and Centers for Disease Control. Check out the World Health Organization myth busters page.

Ask a Lawyer Who Knows

If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or just want to talk to someone who can relate to you, call the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. The OAAP is open for business. Call or schedule a video conference with an attorney counselor today.

OAAP services are free and confidential. Each OAAP attorney counselor is both a lawyer and a counselor. They’ve been there, they are there, and they understand what you’re facing.

Call the OAAP at 503.226.1057 or 800.321.6227 (toll-free), email one of the attorney counselors, or visit the OAAP website. You can also reach out to your county health authority’s COVID-19 hotline.

Take Control

Even when some things are out of our control, there are always things that we as individuals and communities can control.

Wise words from Deschutes County Public Health Authority.

  • Follow physical health recommendations made by the experts.
  • Read tomorrow’s post on suggestions for how to work remotely.
  • Schedule phone calls and other social and professional connections as noted above.
  • Review and prioritize work to do on specific files. Make a to-do list, then transfer the to-dos to your calendar by scheduling appointments with files to get the work done.
  • Remember to make time on your calendar to do admin tasks like billing. Set aside dates/times to get statements out. Feeling guilty about billing clients right now? Offer payment plans. You have a family to support as well.
  • Address concerns about getting new clients by revisiting your marketing plan. People still need legal advice, perhaps more so now. Be creative. Change up how you meet, interview, and collect documents. Use technology whenever you can. When you can’t, seek out alternatives. They may not be ideal, but if they work, so what? For example, sending a non-tech potential client a postage-paid manila envelope to obtain papers. (Remind clients to let mail sit without physical contact to protect their health, then take your own advice. The virus survives on surfaces for varying amounts of time. See tomorrow’s post on working remotely.)
  • Most trials and hearings are postponed until June 1, 2020. Statutes of limitation and rule-based deadlines are likely to be suspended. Our Chief Justice is seeking legislative authority to do this now. Video and phone appearances are likely to be the norm in the near future.

Tips for Parents from DCPHA*

Remain calm and reassuring. If true, emphasize to your children that they and your family are fine.

Make yourself available. Let your children talk and give them plenty of time and attention.

Talk to children in language they can understand. The CDC suggests telling children that, from what doctors have seen so far, most kids aren’t getting very sick. In fact, most people who have gotten COVID-19 haven’t gotten very sick. Only a small group have had serious problems. Keep the conversation going. Make time to check in regularly as the situation develops. Take cues from your child if they become afraid or overwhelmed offer comfort. If you need help, seek professional health.

Avoid language that stigmatizes or assigns blame. Remind children that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race, ethnicity or national origin. Monitor television viewing and social media. Try to limit children’s exposure to media and talk about what they are seeing. Use only reliable sources of information.

Teach strategies to prevent infection. Remind children to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the bathroom. Find more information, visit this resource.

Maintain healthy behaviors and household routines. Serve nutritious meals, encourage adequate sleep and exercise, and maintain household routines to the extent possible.

When to Seek Help

Seek help if you’re struggling with persistent inability to sleep, increasing drug or alcohol use, an overwhelming sense of depression or panic, urges to harm yourself or others, or an inability to take care of yourself or those who depend on you.

Find help in your area

Find online help or crisis services here.

Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1.800.273.TALK (8255) (available 24/7).

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis with enormous appreciation to *Deschutes County Public Health Authority for their helpful words, suggestions for parents, and inspiration to write this post.

Advice for Oregon Lawyers Amid COVID19 Closures and Postponements

With COVID19 news changing daily here are some suggested guidelines for keeping clients informed. This list first appeared on March 17. Modify as needed to comply with Governor Brown’s anticipated Executive Order of March 23 and Chief Justice Walters’s coming update to CJO 20-006.

Keeping Clients Informed Amid COVID19

  • Post notices on your website.
  • Keep your outgoing voicemail message up-to-date.
  • Send an “all client” status email.
  • Post reduced hours or closures at your office.
  • Limit or suspend in-person client visits.
  • Conduct appointments by phone or video conference.
  • Work at home if you can. If you can’t, follow CDC recommended health practices like washing hands frequently and sanitizing surfaces.
  • Prioritize client files. Follow-up with clients whose matters are now postponed or those with upcoming court dates.
  • For specific client outreach, use your phone, not email. Why? Clients will have lots of questions. If you persist with email the likelihood is you’ll be bouncing back and forth for some time addressing all their concerns. You will save time by calling and clients will be reassured when they hear your voice. If calls are running long politely explain you have other clients anxious to hear from you.
  • Use staff to spread the load. They can be a huge help reaching out to and responding to clients.
  • Get virtual help if you need it. To avoid being overwhelmed by calls, consider services like Ruby Receptionist who can help you remotely.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, call the confidential Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. They are available to take your calls and emails.
  • If you are worried about potential legal malpractice claims, reach out to the PLF by email.
  • For ethics questions, see this FAQ. Bar counsel’s office is available by phone or email or you can reach out to private ethics counsel. Keep in mind this is a living document which bar counsel continues to update.
  • Practice patience and kindness – especially toward yourself

Staying On Top of the Latest News

Visit the Oregon State Bar home page frequently for what applies “today.” Current restrictions, closures, and postponements may change.

All rights reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Court Operations Restricted, Statewide Postponements, OSB and PLF Closures

Trials and hearings statewide are postponed, with a few exceptions. Visit the Oregon State Bar home page for full details. Here is the announcement:

Oregon State Bar and Professional Liability Fund

The OSB Center, including the Professional Liability Fund, is CLOSED to visitors until March 31 and operating with reduced staff.

Going Forward

Status of state offices, administrative hearings, etc. are changing daily. Plan for reduced hours, reduced staff, and likely closures. Do what you can online and call or visit websites frequently for updates.

Keeping Clients Informed

  • Post notices on your website.
  • Keep your outgoing voicemail message up-to-date.
  • Send an “all client” status email.
  • Post reduced hours or closures at your office.
  • Limit or suspend in-person client visits.
  • Conduct appointments by phone or video conference.
  • Work at home if you can. If you can’t, follow CDC recommended health practices like washing hands frequently and sanitizing surfaces.
  • Prioritize client files. Follow-up with clients whose matters are now postponed or those with upcoming court dates.
  • For specific client outreach, use your phone, not email. Why? Clients will have lots of questions. If you persist with email the likelihood is you’ll be bouncing back and forth for some time addressing all their concerns. You will save time by calling and clients will be reassured when they hear your voice. If calls are running long politely explain you have other clients anxious to hear from you.
  • Use staff to spread the load. They can be a huge help reaching out to and responding to clients.
  • Get virtual help if you need it. To avoid being overwhelmed by calls, consider services like Ruby Receptionist who can help you remotely.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, call the confidential Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. They are available to take your calls and emails.
  • If you are worried about potential legal malpractice claims, reach out to the PLF by email.
  • For ethics questions, see this FAQ. Bar counsel’s office is available by phone or email or you can reach out to private ethics counsel.
  • Practice patience and kindness – especially toward yourself.

All rights reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

COVID19 Impacts Oregon Legal Community

Author’s Note: Court, Oregon State Bar, and PLF operations have changed since this post was published.

See: Court Operations Restricted, Statewide Postponements, OSB and PLF Closures.

COVID19 and the Oregon Legal Community

In a recent NW Sidebar post, the Washington State Bar Association explores whether the legal profession is ready for a pandemic. The upshot? Take COVID19 seriously and prepare now:

  • Create a list of important emergency numbers that can be quickly accessed in printed and electronic form.
  • Establish remote access to critical client records.
  • Prioritize your firm’s functions by criticality.
  • Have a “go kit” of technology, files, and other necessities if you need to work from home.
  • Review the answers to frequently asked questions published on the Oregon State Bar website.

For a complete list of suggested steps, see the ABA booklet Surviving a Disaster and resources from the Professional Liability Fund [Select “Disaster Response and Recovery” under Practice Management > Forms.]

For COVID19 specifically:

  • Ensure the workplace is clean and hygienic with surfaces regularly wiped down with disinfectant.
  • Promote hand-washing at the office with posters and other communication. And make sure visiting clients have places wash their hands with soap and water.
  • Brief staff and clients if COVID-19 starts spreading locally.
  • Direct anyone in the office with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (99 degrees F or more) to stay home, and make clear to employees that they will be able to count this time off as sick leave.

Law Firms Taking Action

On March 6, Reuters Legal reported that the Seattle office of K&L Gates has asked employees to work from home. Will Oregon firms follow suit, as the need arises? We should.

Status of Oregon State Bar and Professional Liability Fund Services

Meanwhile, the Oregon State Bar issued the following statement appearing on its home page:

As of March 12, Gov. Kate Brown has banned gatherings of more than 250 people within Oregon through April 8. Social distancing can reduce transmission of the virus, helping to delay and slow the spread of the COVID-19. The OSB will continue to monitor and follow recommendations from authorities and has already taken steps to reduce our own community impact. Our goal is to support and protect the well-being of our members and the public we all serve.

All live events, in-person CLEs, and in-person counseling services available through the Oregon State Bar, Professional Liability Fund, and Oregon Attorney Assistance Program are cancelled. Oregon lawyers can access practice management assistance and attorney assistance programs via phone, email, and video conferencing.

Court Operations

Check your local circuit court to learn how court operations are being affected in your area. Multnomah County Circuit Court has postponed trials, hearings, and arraignments. Check court websites frequently for further announcements. Be sure to scroll down to the heading “Latest News.” Read the guidelines issued by Chief Justice Walters here.

Workers Comp Board

All in-person hearings and mediations at all WCB locations have been cancelled. The WCB expects to resume hearings and mediations on Monday, March 30, 2020. Lawyers who have an urgent need on a particular case are directed to contact the assigned ALJ or mediator.

In addition, several health insurance companies have agreed to waive co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles for COVID-19 testing. Visit the WCB COVID-19 page to learn more about the agreement and review frequently asked insurance and financial questions.

Act Now

You’ll be glad you did.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2020