How Personal Injury Attorneys Are Adapting During COVID-19
While the COVID-19 pandemic plays out across the United States, thousands of businesses large and small are feeling the effects in many ways. While most people may think only of restaurants and retailers as having to adapt to a new normal in terms of revenue, customers, and more, law firms are also having to make significant changes to how they conduct business. This is especially true of personal injury attorneys, who traditionally rely on meeting with clients face-to-face to discuss their cases. If you are wondering how personal injury attorneys and law firms are adapting to COVID-19, here are some details on the new normal.
Pay and Hiring Freezes
While personal injury firms are continuing to meet with clients via phone calls, emails, text messages, and through Skype and Zoom conversations, the law firms themselves are often putting pay and hiring freezes in place to reduce costs and keep revenues as high as possible. Because of this, employee salary reviews that normally take place annually are often being postponed, meaning employees will not see raises until 2021 at the earliest. Also, since it is imperative to have as few people in an office at any given time, many support positions and even those for new attorneys are being left open until the pandemic passes.
Along with hiring freezes and postponing salary reviews for staff, many personal injury attorneys are also being forced to ask associates within their firms to take pay cuts in order to keep the doors open during COVID-19. On average, industry statistics show partners within law firms are being asked to take pay cuts of 12.5-17.5 percent during the coronavirus crisis. For support staff such as paralegals or legal secretaries, these reductions can range from as little as five percent to as much as eight percent, depending on the size of the firm.
Increased Technology Investments
Now that personal injury attorneys are relying almost exclusively on meeting remotely with clients, firms have had to make large, unexpected, and sudden investments in computer hardware and software to meet the needs of their clients. For smaller firms that were not planning technology upgrades at this time, the costs have led to increased debt for the firm, cuts being made in other areas, and time having to be spent training employees on how to use new equipment. While some firms will absorb these costs through pay and hiring freezes, others will need to make more drastic cuts in 2021 to maintain viability.
While advertising such as TV commercials are of course critical to the success of a personal injury firm, it does cost a large amount of money to produce even one commercial and buy advertising time on stations for it to be broadcast. As a result of COVID-19, more and more personal injury law firms and attorneys have been left scrambling to create new commercials aimed at informing current and potential clients of how they can still work with them on their cases. Since advertising budgets are usually planned at the end of each year or the beginning of a new year, these unexpected developments have led to depleted advertising budgets moving forward past COVID-19.
Finally, some attorneys and firms have had to make the difficult decision to lay off vital employees from their practices, many of which have been valuable employees for many years. Now being forced to do more with less, personal injury attorneys are having to examine such possibilities as decreasing their caseloads, negotiating quicker settlements with insurance companies, and other aspects that they otherwise would not have considered only a couple of months ago.
While we all know the COVID-19 crisis will eventually pass, its effects are expected to be felt long after treatments and vaccines become available. Until then, personal injury attorneys, like other business owners, will need to make tough decisions to position their firms for what follows.