Is There a

Is There a "New Normal" in Your Future?

My favorite part of my job these past 15 years − yes, 15 years! − has been communicating with lawyers in ways that I hope have been as helpful to them as it has been to me. Many times lawyers and their legal staff have reached out to me for advice, and my response has been to listen, ask questions, and guide them to the answer that may be covered up by self-doubt or a lack of confidence. Rarely has the questioner not known even a part of the answer. So with this blog post, let me pose the question, is there a “new normal” in your future?

Have you been furloughed or laid off by your employer?

The adverse economic impact of COVID-19 has caused some employers to lay off employees because they can no longer afford to pay them.  Other employers have chosen to furlough employees temporarily.  Although employees are generally not paid during a work furlough, they typically keep their employment benefits, such as, importantly, their health insurance benefits. Despite how important health insurance may be in the long run, health insurance does not put food on the table and keep a roof over your head.  This may be a time to explore offering contract legal and support services as an independent contractor. Be sure to let your employer know about your plans. How long an employer intends to keep employees furloughed depends on the employer.

Is it time to consider support services from an attorney counselor?

Understandably, you may be feeling very anxious, and you may want to reach out to the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP), which is a part of the PLF’s Risk Management Services, to talk with one of the five attorney counselors: Shari Pearlman (Gregory), Doug Querin,  Kyra Hazilla, Bryan Welch, or Karen Neri. This program also provides a great number of support groups, CLEs, Thriving Today blog posts, and inSight newsletter articles.
Is it time to consider your practice management options?

Whether you decide to become an independent contract attorney providing legal and support services or open your own law office or law office support company, you may want to reach out to the Practice Management Assistance (PMA) Program, which is part of the PLF’s Risk Management Services, to get one-on-one assistance from one of the three practice management attorneys: Sheila Blackford, Hong Dao, or Rachel Edwards. This program also provides a great number of other resources, including practice aids, CLEs, inPractice blog posts, inBrief newsletter articles, and handbooks, including the critically important handbook, Planning Ahead: A Guide to Protecting Your Clients’ Interests in the Event of Your Disability or Death.

Is it time to eliminate or downsize your brick and mortar law firm office?

Obeying Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-12 Stay Home, Save Lives has been a great experience in trying out a different way of providing legal services, albeit a forced one. For weeks we have practiced, refined, and succeeded in working from home. Some law firms have decided to become a virtual law firm utilizing the professional amenities of virtual offices, such as my favorite, Regus, that offers ready-to-go serviced office spaces and instant virtual offices. One of my favorite things about Regus is its flexible menu approach to providing services and amenities, including the option to utilize their numerous locations. There are many other virtual office providers; check Craigslist or use Google or your search engine to search the closest virtual office hosting company.  Another option is to utilize an Executive Office Suite, which is different than a conventional office space. You will find many executive offices are available in commercial business parks. These typically offer a mailing address, a small office, receptionist and phone services, and a shared conference room. Many lawyers use their executive office only when they are meeting with a client, while others enjoy having an office to go to on a semi-regular basis. The PLF provides the Oregon Lawyers’ Conference Room in downtown Portland, for which you can sign up on a first-come, first-served basis. (Note: This conference room is closed through June 2020). Finally, some law firms will look to leasing a smaller law office and plan to allow attorneys to choose the option to work from home or a combination of working from home and alternating days in the office in a shared office arrangement.

Although change pushes us beyond our comfort zone, it brings us the opportunity to do a reset of our perception of where and how we work.  It’s time to get ready for a New Normal in our future.

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