This pandemic is revealing to us another side of the crisis, besides health related concerns. Specifically, we have realized the weaknesses and risks derived from the lack of organization and preparedness, which have had a devastating impact on life and the economy. The includes the insufficiency of medical facilities, equipment, and personnel. The breakdown in the infrastructure of our Country as a whole, has unequivocally proven that something is seriously wrong with our ability to manage events of this magnitude. —
This article covers thoughts by Mark V. Larson, a Los Angeles based workers’ compensation lawyer and legal expert. Associated with Larson, Larson & Dauer, his firm has recovered hundreds of millions in financial settlements for their clients. Mark’s legal prowess and effectiveness has brought him to advise firms and applicable authorities on legal matters facing various situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legal field is no different. Major law firms have had to make massive layoffs, while many others are treading water, with no rescuers in sight. Many law firms are also failing, due to the failure and refusal, to adapt and use new technology to conduct business. This is simply because they are being asked to go outside their comfort zone and figure out new and efficient methods of conducting business and accepting this as the "new normal."
This new reality also represents for the legal industry, an extra challenge related to the digital/electronic integration of technology. This means that all legal matters, should now be able to be heard electronically, as well as in person, if the opportunity allows itself. This technology needs to enable attorneys to diligently represent their clients in legal proceedings, safely and securely, regardless of physically being able to appear. This requires all attorneys to begin practicing law in non-traditional ways, such as Zoom and other electronic methods. There is growing concern that lack of the physical legal formalities, such as court appearances and trial would seem to diminish the laws innate value. Additionally, there would be many concerns over the attorney client privilege. After all, many people think that "somebody is always listening," referring to the government. However, the legal system will re-balance itself and regain its effectiveness, as will the economic sectors. It will just take time and willingness to adapt.
Moving forward, we must also have a plan of action for each of our respective businesses, in the event that there are hurdles to conducting business, such as those created by this current COVID-19 pandemic. This is especially the case in the legal field. Our clients are owed the same duty by their attorney to aggressively advocate for them, despite the pandemic.
This includes an understanding by their attorney on how to continue thriving and winning cases, even if they are limited from physically appearing and representing them. While adapting is a key characteristic to a law firm’s survival, in a short time, attorneys will be physically allowed and able to re-enter Courts when needed. Things will likely begin to return to the "new normal."
After these months of isolation, one must also try to understand how potential new clients are going to react or not react to the "new normal." As much as defense attorneys despise plaintiff/applicant attorneys, their livelihood is dependent upon new cases being filed. The containment measures, restrictions on mobility, and the stoppage of productive activity applied have precluded people from engaging in activities that create the scenarios in which people will need an attorney. Obviously, people need to be working or have been recently working, in order to file workers’ compensation claims.
According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States jumped from an unemployment rate of 4.4% in March 2020 to 14.7% in April 2020. This was an increase of 15.9 million newly unemployed people. This is the largest jump in unemployment going back to 1948, which was the first recorded year of unemployment statistics.
The International Labor Organization (ILO), in a report in early April on the effects of COVID-19, predicts that worldwide in the second quarter of 2020 195 million full-time jobs will disappear and, in turn, also warns of a huge loss of income for millions of workers, so that these forecasts would far exceed the consequences of the 2008 crisis. Clearly the COVID-19 pandemic has had a brutal impact on the labor market in our country. The fall has been historic, practically in 14 days the same number of jobs that were destroyed in 101 days, between October 2008 and February 2009, after the fall of Lehman Brothers, have been destroyed. In the workplace, recent government measures have very clear objectives: to fight the spread of the virus and cushion the effects it is having on companies and workers.
Additionally, the measures approved by the Government in this crisis are to protect employment, and for the decline of the economy to be transferred to other areas. Other important labor and social measures have been promoted, such as the implantation of work-from-home policies, or the recoverable paid leave, which made it possible to paralyze activity in non-essential sectors to increase efficiency in the fight against the pandemic. The protection of discontinued employees and temporary contract workers has also been improved.
As the de-escalation process begins, the immediate challenge is to assist companies in complying with the hurdles of re-opening, such as the sanitary, preventive, and protection measures for working people and their patrons. Whatever your situation may be, it is undeniable that this health crisis will forever change the ways in which we conduct business. However, despite living in a world of chaos, we must continue to diligently represent our client/s and we must continue thriving by using our skill and knowledge to adapt and handle all client matters efficiently and effectively.
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