How can we – as lawyers – stay in business during the coronavirus pandemic, and beyond? Part 2

I’m sure a lot of lawyers and law firms are struggling to cope with the lockdown. Many aren’t set up for homeworking, social distancing or self-isolation. And it’s all happened so quickly there has been very little time to prepare. Yet this is when your clients’ minds are really focused on what’s important to them, and they’ll be looking to you for advice and to set contingencies in place.

This is number two in this blog series, where I’ll try to set out some suggestions – from my own experience and the experience of others close to me – on how you might manage things in the short-term, the medium-term and in the longer term.

How – and why – do you scan and save all documents to your Document or Case Management System?

Full marks if you always scan all incoming hard copy correspondence and other documents into your document management system, because this enables the full case content to be seen electronically, essential in times of crisis such as this, where almost everyone is required to work at home. How though does post get physically scanned if there is no one in the office? If you have a document or case management system, you should store them all in document management. Not everyone does this, some people continue to store in Word folders outside of document or case management. This makes it difficult for everyone else to know what documents exist that relate to a case and/or to find those that are outside the system.

At the time of writing, the government is allowing people to go to the office if essential. Currently, the Post Office is still delivering mail, so you might consider it reasonable for one fully consenting person to attend the office, with appropriate gloves and other protective equipment, to scan all post and distribute it electronically to the correct cases and people.

The alternative of home scanners wouldn’t work in most cases, because post is delivered to one location, not to each person’s home.

Similar conditions apply to outgoing post. It should go without saying that email and secure file sharing should be used in preference to physical post wherever possible, but some documents still require a wet signature. Not by any means all documents, as electronic signatures ranging from fully encrypted digital signatures to simply typing your name can amount to a signature in law.

Witnessing documents presents its own problems. If emergency legislation can tell us all to stay home, could it not also provide for witnessing via video link? Not a high priority, I accept, but one that could help some wheels moving in a business and professional world that is under threat.

Wet signatures remain a requirement for contracts for the sale of land, Wills and Lasting Power of Attorneys, to name a few.

The options are to send all printing to the central location where the person scanning incoming post can print and send out outgoing post, or to print to a local printer and go out and post the documents. The former would appear for most firms to be the most economic in terms of minimising the number of persons who would be out and about.

What do you do? If you’d like to join the discussion, feel free to Follow Martin Langan on LinkedIn.

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