Author’s Note: Court, Oregon State Bar, and PLF operations have changed since this post was published.
COVID19 and the Oregon Legal Community
- 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.]
- 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.
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.
You’ll be glad you did.
All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2020
All or most of these activities come with the job of being a lawyer. But we also need time to think and get work done. If you’re looking for answers, consider the following strategies.
Six Steps to Becoming a More Productive Lawyer
Set aside specific time during the day to respond to communications. Don’t allow the rings, dings, and beeps of technology to constantly interrupt your concentration. Check emails, calls, and texts when you arrive and before the end of the day. If a lunch-time check is feasible (or necessary in your opinion), add it in.
On days when your schedule won’t allow for check-ins, set up appropriate auto-replies to manage client expectations. If you have staff, let them screen and manage incoming requests. If you’re going to be gone for an extended period, inform clients beforehand.
Identify your most productive time of day and use it to do legal work. Schedule meetings during “down” time and inform staff of your preference (and when they can break the rules).
Set boundaries for using the Internet if you find that you spend too much time browsing, shopping, or looking at social media. Consider deleting cookies, logins, and bookmarks for pages that eat away at productive time.
Once a quarter, block out one week with no meetings so you can catch up. Don’t wait. Choose for weeks now. Use the time to clean up your desk and workspace, go through your to do list, attend to filing, scanning, or closing files – whatever you’ve been putting off. If you’re caught up, enjoy the uninterrupted time.
Delegate or outsource as much as you can, when you can, so you can focus on the tasks that only you can do. Billable time is precious and should be maximized doing billable work.
There’s free help for that.
If you, or someone you care about, is feeling overwhelmed by stress, contact the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP).
OAAP attorney counselors can help you explore ways to reduce your stress, manage your time, and achieve a healthier work-life balance. If needed, they can also refer you to other health professionals to make sure you get the help you need. All contact with the OAAP is confidential.
All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis
You may feel there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. However, you have more control over stress than you might think. No matter how stressful your life seems, you can take steps to relieve the pressure and regain balance.
- Start by reading these 12 specific tips offered in Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress.
- Download the “Stress Relief Toolbox” provided by the authors. As they suggest, it’s not a bad idea to use one of these tools every day. Don’t wait for stress to build up.
- If you’re a list-maker, the “Stress Management Self-Help Checklist” may appeal to you. It’s a good way to stay on track and remind yourself of the importance of managing stress as part of your overall health.
- Last, but not least: if you’re trying to get a handle on the stressors in your life, consider keeping a “Stress Journal.”
New Podcast on Law Student Mental Health –
Law students may experience significant stress in law school without much to access in the way of resources. This new podcast addresses that need.
If you have students working in your office, encourage them to listen to the podcast. Point them to our own Oregon Attorney Assistance Program, which serves students in addition to lawyers.