There’s no question that the world has changed exponentially in 2020. How we live, how we go to work, how we shop, adaptations have been in almost every aspect of public life. These drastic changes designed to minimize the spread of COVID have also reached how lawyers practice law, how they go to trial, and how they communicate with their clients.
We sat down with some of the country’s leading attorneys to learn how they practice law in 2020, what safety precautions have been implemented to prevent the spread of COVID, and what life practicing law is like in the wake of the pandemic.
We asked three attorneys about the most significant changes that they’ve had to make to their business in 2020.
- Brant Hodyno, founder of Compassionate Counsel, a general practice law firm that focuses on consumer debt and bankruptcy. Founder Brant Hodyno designed the firm to deliver quality legal services and representation with reasonable rates (flat fees, with multiple discounts available to the indigent, veterans, and seniors) to regular people with as little stress as possible. The founder’s focus is on direct attorney-client relationships, offering a more personal touch and better client communication. According to Hodyno, the firm’s name “Compassionate Counsel” is an accurate description of its services. The firm’s greatest satisfaction and validation lies in the client reviews they receive, whether the reviews are sent directly to Hodyno, or they’re posted online for other potential clients to see. The firm values these types of connections and the knowledge that they have improved the lives of their clients. When asked how he and his team practiced law during the pandemic, he had this to say: “The business model I created for Compassionate Counsel was already significantly different than most other law firms, in that I always dealt directly with my clients (we have two attorneys here — we answer our own phones, client communications are always directly with their attorney). The onset of COVID and the shutdown that followed prompted us to adopt software and technology platforms that promote personal interaction, online security, and ease of use. I upgraded my primary case management software provider to provide clients with a better end-user experience. We started using video conferencing technology, including Zoom and Facetime, for a more personal experience during one-on-one consultations and follow-ups. Additionally, we purchased a secure online portal solution (Verifyle) for encrypted document collection and discussion of sensitive matters.”
- Jerome Payne, the founding attorney at the Payne Law Firm in Memphis Tennessee, has been practicing law for over twenty-six years, which a focus on bankruptcy law. Since the rise of the pandemic, Payne, who is admittingly not very tech-savvy, made important changes, relying more on technology than ever before, in terms of how he and other attorneys in the firm meet and communicate with clients. Regarding how the firm now relies on technology to communicate and meet with clients, Payne stated, “I learned that I could do more with the equipment that I already had and could also educate clients regarding how to use these online platforms to communicate and meet safely, as well. I’ve seen what this pandemic has done to the entire world and the havoc that it has caused, in terms of unemployment, food insecurity, credit card debt, hospital bills, pending evictions and foreclosures and decided that a practice focused on debt relief is most needed during this time. Therefore, my concentration is bankruptcy law. It is the best and fastest way to a fresh start. It really doesn’t matter how you got to this place, but please know that there is help available. I will personally guide you there.”
- Jerry Burg, the founder of the Law Office of Jerry A. Burg, and also Of Counsel to Capistrant Van Loh, PA, felt that one of the biggest changes he made was meeting with clients on the video conferencing software, Zoom. Burg admitted that at first it was strange watching himself work on screen, but he’s slowly adapting to this new way of conducting business. When asked what the courts were doing over Zoom, Burg replied “so far everything, but I have a trial coming up in September that is going to be in the courtroom. I was in the middle of a criminal jury trial when the state shut down the court system. And what was particularly weird about that was that the courthouse emptied out except for us and some of the Sheriff’s Deputies that acted as bailiffs in the courthouse. We had to separate the jurors to help keep people six feet apart. People were continually wiping down the tables and chairs with bleach Wet-Wipes. Then we came back to a world that had been shut down, and going into a jury trial is like going into its own world anyway. All the hearings I had on the calendar were canceled. Some of them are now starting to get rescheduled again. Courts are beginning to schedule other hearings, most of them on Zoom. Depending on whether they are an emergency type of thing or case that involves people’s constitutional rights or deal with incarceration.”
The pandemic has reached every corner of the world. There have been changes gradually made that have allowed many of us to get back to work.
As the world continues to learn how to function during the pandemic, these attorneys have taken great strides to adapt and provide their clients with the best legal counsel possible. Relying more on technology than ever before, while also following the proper social distancing protocols and sanitizing any public surfaces to minimize the spread and do their part.