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Law360 (March 27, 2020, 3:53 PM EDT) -- Many solo practitioners and small law firms are facing work disruptions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, with fewer resources than some of their BigLaw brethren.
But there are also some simple ways these attorneys can help ease transitions with tech and with clients at this unprecedented time, said Charles R. Gallagher III of Gallagher & Associates Law Firm PA, who on Friday hosted a webinar aimed at solo practitioners presented by the American Bar Association.
Here are three tips he suggested solo practitioners and small-firm attorneys consider as they head toward remote work.
Fortify Your Home Tech
When it comes to solo practitioners and small law firms moving to remote work, a top issue is making sure your home networks are secure and able to handle all of the online work you need to do, said Gallagher. That means potentially calling your data provider to upgrade your plans to ensure you don't hit internet slowdowns, as well making sure all of your antivirus or malware software has been updated and that your Wi-Fi router is secured.
"One of the biggest ways people get hacked is using unsecured Wi-Fi networks in the home," Gallagher said.
He suggested aiming for a 15-character password as a baseline and being careful not to use an unsecure network while at, say, a food takeout place to do any meaningful amount of privileged attorney-client communications on your phone.
"If you're going to be practicing from home, it's very important you're not going to be open to any kind of cybersecurity issues," said Gallagher.
Consider Deadline Extension Auto-Replies
In this time of upheaval, many attorneys are struggling to meet filing deadlines and are also being deluged by emails from both clients and other attorneys. If you generally are open to deadline extensions or need extensions because of disruptions in your offices, consider creating an email auto-reply that grants — and requests — extensions, Gallagher said.
For example, if your offices are closed, an email auto-reply could say something along the lines of, "If you're emailing the firm to ask for an extension, please accept this response as our agreement to one through and including April 10." Similarly, such an email could add a line asking that the email auto-reply be accepted as a request for a similar extension for attorneys checking in on your own missed deadlines.
Work on Client Communications
It's important to stay in contact with existing clients and make sure their needs are being taken care of amid the crisis. Make sure they are aware of any changes in your operations via direct messages or even an update on your website.
Clients should be made aware of changes to court matters, office operations and scheduling for depositions or mediations, Gallagher said.
Also, as clients feel their own economic crunches, consider having individual conversations with clients who may need a payment holiday or other flexibility.
"I think everybody is going to have a hard time getting new clients in this time frame, and I think we are all going to be riding with our existing clients," Gallagher said.
--Editing by Alanna Weissman.
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