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Reopening the Law Office in the Age of Covid-19

COVID-19 has ushered in work from home (WFH).  Firms that once were reluctant to allow WFH were forced overnight in March 2020 to embrace it.

As firms reopen their offices, they should ask the “Big WHY.”  What is the reason for reopening?  Are clients clamoring for this?  What do attorneys and staff want?  Is productivity down because of WFH or is it down due to client needs?

Face-to-face collaboration has benefits over video meetings and telephone calls.  Conversations go in unexpected directions that lead to brainstorming.   However, this will be limited because everyone will not be in the office at the same time.   Social distancing and offices with closed doors also work against it.  Nonetheless, some attorneys may feel isolated at home and want to come back to the office.

Mentoring and training also are more effective in person.  The informal nature of these activities will be limited, but individual conversations, reviews of briefs, etc., and cups of coffee can be scheduled.

Firms should try collaborating by a hybrid of in-person and video meetings.  Regular practice groups, administration and firm-wide video meetings should continue.  Informal video happy hours, lunches, coffees and events play an important role too.  Encourage people to talk about more than their jobs or functions.  Use breakout rooms in video meetings of more than 10 participants.  Firms that implement these steps can create video collaboration.

There are clients who are not pushing to meet in person and there are attorneys and staff who want to work remotely.  Keep the work that must be done in person -- such as witness and hardcopy document preparation -- to a minimum.  

Throughout the NYC area, mass transit is a huge problem.  Some (perhaps most) people will be reluctant to come to the office until there is both the perception and reality that it is safe.

This creates both an opportunity and need for firms to review their practice groups and consider which ones to beef up and which ones to reduce. 

All of this impacts the size, type, location and cost of office space.  Plan at least two years before your lease expires, unless you can negotiate with your landlord faster.  Do you need and want as big an office?  If you are in Manhattan, how important is that to impress people?  Can you do with just a shared Manhattan address?

Do not be surprised if people who want a different schedule from what the firm wants suddenly leave.  On the other hand, be ready to recruit attorneys who like your firm’s schedule and dislike their current firm’s schedule.  Be flexible in designing schedules.  These policies are now key for recruiting and retention.  

The firms that prosper in 2021 and beyond are the firms who put the requirements of their clients and personnel first and who design their vision for offices, WFH and practice groups around them.

- Paul N. Mendelsohn, CPA, provides Fractional CFO services to law firms.  Contact Paul at


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Covid Recession Jokes

The recession has hit everybody really hard.
My neighbor got a pre-declined credit card in the mail.

CEO's are now playing miniature golf.
Exxon-Mobil laid off 25 Congressmen.

I saw a Mormon with only one wife.

If the bank returns your check marked "Insufficient Funds," you call them and ask if they meant you or them.

McDonald's is selling the 1/4 ouncer.

Angelina Jolie adopted a child from America.

Parents in Beverly Hills fired their nannies and learned their children's names.

My cousin had an exorcism but couldn't afford to pay for it, and they re-possessed her!

A truckload of Americans was caught sneaking into Mexico.

A picture is now only worth 200 words.

The Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas is now managed by Somali pirates.

And, finally...

I was so depressed last night thinking about the economy, wars, jobs, my savings, Social Security, retirement funds, etc., I called the Suicide Hotline. I got a call center in Pakistan. When I told them I was suicidal, they got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck.

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