To say that the business climate in the United States has changed since the beginning of the year, would be an incredible understatement. The challenges faced by businesses and corporations of all sizes in today’s environment are unlike anything that has taken place in recent history. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting businesses across the country, and some industries, like restaurants and hospitality, are being hit harder than others.
But no segment of American industry is untouched, including law firms. On one level or another, every business is fighting to stay afloat, and it’s vital to have a plan for how to navigate a fluctuating market. How are innovative firms approaching the current challenges? For many, it comes down to being ready to field unexpected requests.
Be able to say “Yes” to concerned clients
If law firms are concerned about how to navigate an economic downturn, their clients are probably feeling the same way – if not more so. These are scary times for everyone. Clients need a trusted partner they can turn to for advice on how to protect their businesses, their employees, and themselves.
In some cases, clients’ questions may fall outside their partner firms’ typical areas of practice. The more prepared firms can be to provide advice on these types of questions, the more they solidify themselves as their clients’ lifelong partners. Take advantage of legal tech that allows you to quickly obtain the accurate answers your clients need during their most difficult times.
Request a free trial of Practical Law to see how you can quickly get up to speed on in-demand practice areas.
Be willing to take on new types of matters
There is little doubt that clients’ priorities and legal needs will change in light of the current situation. In fact, data from Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor is already showing an increase in some practice areas. While it’s impossible to say with certainty what practice areas will be in the highest demand as the COVID situation continues to evolve, some experts project an increased need in the following areas:
- Workers compensation: It’s reasonable to assume that fewer onsite workers mean fewer injuries. On the other hand, essential workers run the risk of suffering injuries if they are asked to take on duties that fall outside their normal areas of expertise. In addition, these workers are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 simply due to their increased exposure to other people.
- Labor and employment: There are many different aspects of labor and employment law that could see a spike in demand. In the context of the current environment, it is easy to see employers needing counsel in areas like staff layoffs, response strategies when a staff member tests positive for the virus, OSHA compliance during a pandemic, and defense against related employee actions. Workers may also seek counsel regarding their rights in the event they are exposed to or contract the virus.
- Bankruptcy and debt restructuring: During the great recession of 2008-2009, the legal industry saw a 20% demand increase. Firms are already seeing an early increase in demand for debt restructuring as a result of COVID-related lockdowns. And the need for bankruptcy services could increase the longer governments extend the closure of “non-essential” businesses.
- Health care: A lot of the demand around health care could center on insurance. The industry could see a substantial increase in coverage disputes and litigation. In the shorter term, however, firms could see an increase in calls from people who have been infected with the virus asking about their legal rights.
- Commercial transactions: An increase in commercial transaction law could arise from a variety of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Delayed delivery of shipments and government seizures of goods due to COVID-19 can result in questions of liability. Canceled events at entertainment and sports venues due to local government stay-at-home orders can give rise to issues over whether promoters should remain responsible for deposits on canceled events and other considerations.
- General business law: With the broad potential impacts on businesses across all industries, the demand for general business law services is likely to rise. Responding to government actions, taking advantage of government relief programs, contract disputes, and similar issues could all be in higher demand during and after the pandemic.
Fill the gaps in your firm’s expertise
Whether for an existing client or a new one, there is an opportunity for firms that don’t regularly practice in these areas to position themselves as that go-to partner. By building the expertise now, firms will become more valuable to clients who are facing these new types of legal challenges in the midst of dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. They will naturally gravitate towards firms they know and trust.
Armed with the requisite expertise, firms can make the process of dealing with unexpected challenges much less stressful for clients — something they will appreciate and likely remember. Forward-thinking firms are being proactive about implementing how-to solutions that allow their attorneys to get up to speed quickly on new areas of law so they are prepared when clients call.
In a fluctuating market, firms may find themselves considering matters outside of their core practice areas. Just as their current clients may be seeking advice in new and unexpected areas, potential clients might be as well. In addition, referrals from other firms could be on the rise.
Establishing new client relationships could be at least as important as nurturing current ones during these times. And preparedness will most certainly be rewarded. There are a number of solutions on the market designed to help attorneys get up to speed quickly on new practice areas. Now is the time for firms to educate themselves on emerging demands and take steps to build the requisite expertise.
Firms need to be proactive in times like these. Always put the health and safety of your clients and team members first, but don’t lose sight of the health of your business. Learn more about how technology can help your firm thrive in a fluctuating market. Read our white paper, Six Ways Firms Can Win with Legal Technology in an Uncertain Market.
Learn more about how you can say “Yes” to inquiries on new types of matters. Request a free trial of Practical Law today.