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Practice tips for lawyers

Practice tips for lawyers

By Law Institute of Victoria

COVID-19 Practice Management 


Contingency planning is essential for practitioners as the crisis unfolds. 

The LIV has released updated information, templates and links to help legal practitioners plan for and respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Wellbeing

During a time of crisis management, the wellbeing of your staff and yourself is critical. Consider the following steps:

know the signs of the coronavirus and be vigilant

ensure staff have a good understanding of infection control principles

share information regularly in your workplace using reliably sourced material

understand that constant media coverage can heighten anxiety and share tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety

discuss a plan of action with your staff/colleagues.

Client communication and engagement

Communicating the potential impact of COVID-19 on your practice will help manage client expectations and 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 and peers, with updates of contacts and the availability of staff

hold client meetings online via Skype, Zoom or other appropriate platforms. Use electronic channels for sharing key information to staff such as Whatsapp groups to manage consistent messaging.

Alternative working models

Plan for alternative working arrangements to support the health and wellbeing of staff and manage the impact of school closures, disruptions to transport etc:

consider establishing a virtual office or implementing working from home arrangements

cybersecurity 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 (eg, banks, stationery providers and IT services).

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 clients’ 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 to assist you to document your own practice contingency plan.

Practice support

The LIV Ethics and Practice Support helpline is available to assist (ph 9607 9378, email pmconsult@liv.asn.au). 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.

The LIV is closely following the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency declared by the Victorian government, along with advice from the federal government and health authorities. Its priority is to focus on the health and wellbeing of staff and members, and is working hard to reduce the potential risk and spread of the virus, while ensuring continuity of service to members during this time.

Since March, there is restricted access to Levels 12 and 13, 140 William Street until further notice. Please do not attend the LIV office. The LIV is now offering all CPD activities via webinars and online videos, and is taking bookings.

Most staff are working remotely until further notice unless working in the office is essential for the continuity of member services.

What does this mean for services to members?

CPD, conferences and practice management course sessions

Face-to-face CPD sessions, including the practice management course, will cease until further notice. The LIV is offering CPD activities remotely (via webinars and online videos) working with presenters to minimise the impact on your learning. If you have already booked to attend a CPD session or conference, we will automatically transfer your booking to webinar attendance. Should you not receive a specific email about your registration, please contact register@liv.asn.au or 9607 9311.

Committee meetings

No committee or section meetings will be held face to face until further notice. The Legal Policy and Young Lawyers sections are in contact with committee chairs that have meetings scheduled to ask whether meetings can be postponed, cancelled or held via email or teleconference.

Member social events

All social events are cancelled or postponed. Registrants for the events will be contacted by email.

External room hire

The LIV will not be taking any external room hire bookings until further notice. If you currently have a room booked we will be in contact with you to agree an appropriate action.

Ethics advice line and practice management support

We will continue to offer these services. For ethics support call 9607 9336 and for practice support call 9607 9378 or email the team on practicesupport@liv.asn.au. No external face-to-face visits will be undertaken until further notice.

Practice support

We are regularly releasing updated information for members on practice support and contingency. Please check the LIV website or daily LawNews email for the latest information.

Legal Referral Service

The LIV Find Your Lawyer Referral Service will continue to operate via phone on 9607 9567 and referrals@liv.asn.au.

LIV Library and Bookshop

The LIV Library and Bookshop are closed for external visitors until further notice. During this period, LIV Library services and support will include remote access to databases, catalogue search and other resources. Until further notice new requests for borrowing will not be completed, however current loans have been extended until our office reopens. The Library Archive service has been suspended for online archive requests, however, urgent requests will be assessed on a case by case basis as will online requests for the document supply and research service. All queries and requests for support should be directed to library@liv.asn.au.

The LIV Law Books bookshop is closed but will be dispatching books and papers at least once a week so online orders are being taken.

Communication with members

The LIV daily LawNews email continues and members are encouraged to check this, and LIV social media channels and www.liv.asn.au, for the latest information. The LIV continues to liaise with key stakeholders in the justice sector and will provide members with advice as we are alerted to key changes.

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