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.]
- 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