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Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Practice Contingency Planning

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Practice Contingency Planning

By Peter Docherty

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The Law Institute of Victoria has released updated information, templates and links to assist legal practitioners plan for and respond to the current COVID-19 crisis.

1.    Well-being.
During a time of crisis management, the well-being of your staff and yourself is critical.

•    know the signs of the coronavirus and be vigilant
•    ensure staff have a good understanding of infection control principles
•    share regular COVID-19 updates in your workplace using reliably source material
•    understand the constant media coverage can heighten anxiety and share tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety
•    consider alternative work model, like working from home
•    discuss a plan of action with your staff/colleagues

2.    Client communication and engagement
Communicating the potential impact of the COVID-19 on your practice will assist to manage client expectations and manage ongoing risks

•    review your work in progress, critical dates and the impact of potential delays
•    prioritise critical items and advise clients of possible delays where necessary
•    communicate any changes in how the practice is operating to clients, peers with updates of contacts and the availability of staff
•    hold client meetings online via skype, zoom meetings or other appropriate platforms
•    use electronic channels for sharing key information to staff such as Whatsapp groups to manage consistent messaging

3.    Alternative working models
Consider alternative working arrangements to support the health and well-being of staff and manage the potential impact of school or children centres closures, disruptions to transport etc.

•    consider establishing a virtual office or implementing working from home arrangements
•    cyber security is essential when preparing for COVID-19
•    ask staff to complete a Working from Home checklist to review their working environment and your ongoing OHS obligations
•    review implications to your records management systems and associated risks, document and share revised policies
•    tailor staff monitoring, supervision and quality control systems for a virtual office
remember your trust accounting obligations and deposit as soon as practicable
•    discuss the external examination time frames and requirements with your external examiner or other relevant service providers (e.g. banks, stationery providers and IT services

4.        Document your Practice Contingency Plan
Death, serious illness or injury can incapacitate a principal suddenly and does not discriminate – it can happen to anyone, regardless of age, health, lifestyle and other perceived ‘low risk’ factors. A Practice Contingency Plan will assist to :
•    protect your client’ interests
•    ensure minimum disruption to your practice
•    reduce the need for regulatory intervention
•    support staff at a stressful time
•    preserve the value of your practice and your interest in the practice
•    avoid undue stress on family and friends.


The LIV has a Checklist for sole practitioners and Enduring Power of Attorney for a Law Practice will assist  you to document your own Practice Contingency Plan.  

5.    Practice Support
The LIV Ethics and Practice Support helpline is available to assist the professional
T: 03 9607 9378
    The LIV Practice Management Consulting service provides an additional layer of support via a confidential and complimentary one-on-one consultancy service which is designed to:
•    work with practitioners to strengthen areas of practice management
•    share good practice and identify strategies to mitigate practice risk
•    assist practitioners to develop a practice contingency or a succession plan
•    provide support to a practitioner struggling and in need of support
•    develop remedial action plans and a follow up program.

    Email: pmconsult@liv.asn.au

 


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