The COVID-19 crisis has already begun reshaping the way we live, interact, and do business. Every area of life seems to have been touched by the effects of the virus, and the field of law is no exception. With most experts agreeing on the paramount importance of social distancing, many attorneys have begun instituting new ways of practicing law, seeking a way to continue advocating for their clients while prioritizing their clients’ and their own health and wellbeing.
A variety of changes have been or are expected to be instituted in the litigation process during and following the coronavirus pandemic, including but not limited to:
- Telecommunication. To encourage and enforce social distancing, lawyers have already been expanding their methods of communication with current and potential clients. Clients or potential clients can now contact most law offices over phone and email, and meetings which would previously have taken place in person are now being held over secure video conferencing technology.
- Court hearings conducted via teleconference. The US Supreme Court has already begun instituting this method of meeting to hear and deliberate over pressing cases. It seems likely that other courts will begin hosting remote hearings as well.
- Telejuries. Instead of a group of 12 strangers sitting in the same room together to deliberate over the evidence of a case, there is the distinct possibility that telejuries might come into use. Using video conferencing technology, it’s quite possible that telejuries become commonplace in future court proceedings.
- Electronic and mailed document signing. Previously, a common reason for clients and attorneys to meet in person was to sign important documents. However, as the coronavirus pandemic wears on, more attorneys are attempting to make the electronic signature of documents possible to avoid unnecessary exposure. Some attorneys have also begun mailing hard copies of these documents to clients who request to sign them by hand.
- Increase in need for labor attorneys. With the changing rules regarding paid leave, health and safety requirements in work environments, and extended hours for essential workers, labor attorneys are already fielding an influx of inquiries from concerned workers seeking legal protection.
- Implementation of litigation regarding child visitation and COVID-19 risks. There is already a growing problem with child custody and visitation across the country as parents are hesitant to cooperate with state-ordered visitations between parents out of fear for their children and families’ health.
- Increase in nursing home abuse and need for new communication systems. It is theorized that nursing home abuse is likely to increase as the pandemic continues, due primarily to employee burnout and the inability of family members to visit their loved ones inside the facility. Attorneys are recommending families supply their elderly family members in these facilities with a phone specifically intended for daily communications to check-in with the wellbeing of their loved ones.
- New types of financial aid to help clients struggling to pay court costs. This primarily applies to non-personal injury cases, as the majority of personal injury attorneys work based on contingency.
If you need legal assistance, don’t let COVID-19 stop you from seeking help. Law firms around the world are figuring out how to implement the changes necessary to continue successfully litigating, and many of them remain open offering remote legal assistance to those in need.