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Pandemic Planning – Pop-up Session Recap [4/30/20]

Wednesday, April 29, 2020  
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Pandemic Planning – Pop-up Session Recap 

By Michelle Howe 

Office Administrator, Faegre Drinker 

 

On Wednesday, March 11th, ALA Chicago held a special pop-up session – Pandemic Planning. Hosted by Kathy Scourby of KNS Consulting, LLC, this informational session was relevant and timely to the evolving Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Although COVID-19 awareness has become part of our daily life today, in early March, it was just starting to hit the radar of many firms. Scourby discussed a number of strategies law firms could implement, many of which we now see to be best practices in the face of a pandemic. Suggestions included how to maintain a skeleton staff in the office, and also how to allow certain staff who normally would not be the type of employee to be considered for such an arrangement, such as the receptionist, to work from home. One area of conversation was variables – would our buildings be open? Would the government allow us to continue to go into the office? How would courts adjust? These questions were discussed as “What Ifs” – and for many people in the room, this was the first time they’d thought about such scenarios. For most of us, these were things we could not imagine happening. 

 

Out of this presentation came the bigger picture of business continuity. For many law firms, we imagined business continuity around situations that we’d seen happen in other places, such as natural disasters or data breaches. As Scourby presented ways to plan our workforce for such a situation – including ending the requirement of doctor’s notes for sick days, rotating employees’ work schedules so employees were not working closely together, and cross-training employees across departments – we realized that although COVID-19 may present different challenges, the challenges were not insurmountable in helping our firms continue to function. 

 

Of course, now our firms have determined how to best allow our staff and attorneys to work from home. As of the date of this writing, Governor Pritzker deems law firms to be an “essential” business, and as such we are allowed to carry on the functions that permit us to continue to perform our responsibilities. While we expect that COVID-19 will continue to have an impact on our business as law firms moving forward, we have a new appreciation for the peace of mind that being prepared for such a situation can offer in the challenges of the future.