Many of our clients and potential clients are wondering how our firm is responding to the coronavirus pandemic. We thought we’d take a few minutes to outline how this pandemic has—and hasn’t—changed operations here.
An Unprecedented Situation
The COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic has certainly created a unique set of events unlike anything we’ve ever seen. My grandparents would talk to me about their experiences during the Great Depression and World War II, but the current crisis looks to be even larger than what I think their experiences were. In our field specifically, the frustrations are significant. Every court we deal with puts out new orders every day modifying procedures.
The Justice System’s Response
The justice system is currently grappling with how to continue providing needed public access to courts while still keeping the public, lawyers, courthouse staff, and judges safe during the developing coronavirus issue. There is an effort to maintain a semblance of normalcy with regards to the courthouses and their functions within the legal system. At the same time, decision-makers are trying to walk very cautiously down this path. We are all facing the prospect of a silent and unseen killer that no one fully understands just yet.
The Changes We’ve Made at Keathley and Keathley
Here at Keathley and Keathley, we’ve also made some changes. We needed to react as quickly as possible, and we’ll probably make additional changes as the situation evolves. Here’s what we’ve done so far.
First, we are still open and still providing our legal services. We want our clients to feel comfortable contacting us. People that need legal services should be able to feel comfortable about approaching us and seeking out our services.
We are at the office, but we are seeing clients by appointment only. At this time we are recommending either phone meetings or Zoom video conferencing. And so far it’s been working out very well. (By the way, the courts have just issued an order in the past day or two saying that Zoom is going to be used for all civil court hearings.)
Where Zoom Currently Isn’t an Option
Some scenarios still require in-person presence. The logistics of implementing Zoom or similar technologies on a hearing that requires rules of evidence, the Confrontation Clause, or needing a judge to manage the objections are still being determined. Additionally, Zoom-technology is not, as I understand, applicable at this time to criminal cases where a person may be in jail. I have pleas tomorrow where I will have to participate in an in-person hearing at the courthouse. Certainly, I will take steps and I know the courthouse and the jail will take steps to keep us as safe as possible, but at this time in-person appearances are still happening.
Having a person in jail that needs to come before the court hasn’t been solved just yet. This is a shame, because those are some of the people that most need to have quick access to the courts. All non-essential hearings on criminal cases (anything that comes into making a strategic decision or important decision in the case, including please) have basically come to a standstill.
Trials, Pleas, and Plea Deals
A trial would also be considered essential, however at this point all March and April trials have been postponed. There are still some trials set in May and June, but they may end up getting postponed as well.
After postponing all the non-essential cases, the only things left regarding criminal cases are pleas. I would expect the courts will require people that are in jail to be present. People that are out of jail that want to do a plea bargain, I presume that those are either going to be postponed or the courts will end up utilizing Zoom.
For our litigation, family law practice, personal injury cases, those have all been ordered to be facilitated through Zoom. It certainly does provide an alternative to putting yourself at potential risk in a closed room that may inadvertently spread germs.
Don’t Put Off Legal Needs
Just because the Coronavirus is rampant, does not mean the judicial system can come to a stop. People still need the ability to address their grievances in court, and the courts will still be there for them. Despite the current pandemic, our law enforcement, our courts, and our resolution of our disputes are all very important and will continue to function. There will simply be delays and modifications to process in some areas.
How to Contact Keathley and Keathley for Help During this Time
Keathley and Keathley is open for business. Business interactions just look a little bit different right now. If you stop by our office n person, you’ll see a sign that gives instructions on how to communicate with a live person as promptly as possible. If you contact us by phone, then you will get an introductory phone message that will then be picked up by one of our on-call staff members.
A live person will respond as quickly as possible to every request or inquiry. Whether you are an existing client or a new client, we provide the option of a phone meeting or Zoom video conference if you’d like to schedule a meeting.
This coronavirus crisis has forced us to innovate, and it’s not all bad. We love using Zoom to facilitate a face-to-face meeting with a new client or existing clients. And I think later on down the road, this will revolutionize the way a lot of people practice law. It’s already starting to do so for us.