How small businesses can litigate successfully during COVID
Individual practitioners and those in small and boutique businesses who show patience set the tone for professionalism, collaboration and customer service.
It’s been a year since the United States declared the COVID-19 pandemic a national emergency. The judicial system continues to be overwhelmed, but small law firms can still make a big impact by producing beneficial outcomes for clients.
Our little law firm is like many others because, given the pandemic, we had to find that special balance between strong advocacy and personal service that clients expect and deserve. We are proud to have received six- and seven-digit awards for judgments and settlements on behalf of the injured victims and their families during the most uncertain time in modern American history. Much of this success depended on a willingness to innovate and re-evaluate strategies.
Below are some steps we took in 2020 to help other small businesses thrive as they adapt to this evolving legal landscape.
Step 1. Embrace new technology and electronic communications
The legal profession has relied on personal appearances in the past, but the venue has changed. You can appear in court without leaving your own office. The steps in your years of routine that are marked by travel, elevators and hallways are being replaced by digital waiting rooms. Its convenience shouldn’t make you too laconic – you should still prepare and show up in good time to demonstrate that you are serious about this new process.
Use this opportunity to present comfortably on a screen. This is a chance for you to improve your video and digital skills, whether you are a bit camera shy or just aiming to be more presentation conscious. Also, consider buying an external microphone so that your voice can be transmitted clearly even if your video is unstable.
Streaming platforms specializing in litigation are emerging – and as they evolve, providers are running sham trials to demonstrate their safety and efficiency. Take advantage and see how you can get involved – you’ll also get a better feel for what kind of security measures you need for real online or digital testing. Contact your local or state bar association for recommendations and the latest innovations.
How you look and sound will continue to be of vital importance. When you invest in technology, you stand out from your opponent. Our office has invested in screens with cameras behind the screen so you never lose eye contact with your audience. We have invested in better lighting and backdrops as well as a teleprompter for use when opening and closing. While we all long to be in a courtroom again, these times can be an opportunity for your business to gain a competitive advantage as you leverage the technology that now serves our new legal reality.
Step 2. Expand the Virtual Client Service
Customer service is a top priority for almost all small law firms. Unfortunately, for the sake of everyone’s health, the initial consultations and meetings have to be virtual. View any video call with the same formality as you would a face-to-face meeting.
Online meeting, man in suit giving thumbs up gesture; Image by Tumisu via Pixabay.com.
- Turn off audible email and phone notifications.
- Keep your computer or phone in your direct line of sight, not down or to the side.
- Make eye contact.
Your customers are real people with real challenges, most of whom come to your colleagues. If you are authentic and give them your undivided attention, you can convey the personal touch that helped build your reputation.
Step 3. Be realistic about banking attempts and make your mediations dynamic
With the emerging health and safety risks, we know that legal proceedings will not be the preferred place for new litigation. Bench trials, where the judge makes procedural decisions, hears evidence and pronounces the verdict, will retain its popularity for the foreseeable future. Bank attempts offer several advantages, such as:
- Faster procedures and decisions.
- Judges tend to be more neutral than jurors.
- The judges apply certain legal rules and procedures, especially as cases become more complex.
Attorneys for plaintiffs and defendants must accept that bank trials are likely to be the solution for their clients. Strategically planning your case with this in mind will empower your cases from the start if you make it to court. Additionally, your clients will be better served if you think as much about presenting your case in mediation as you used to do about presenting your case in court. Your opponent’s attorney may not be willing to set up a bank attempt. In this case, mediation can be the best opportunity to achieve a result for your client in a reasonable time. Our company has integrated the use of recorded PowerPoint presentations in mediation, which include accident animations, interviews with our experts and statements from witnesses. Mediators and the attorney and appraisal on the other hand are human, and they all keep an eye on what the jury hears as they judge the benchmark of your case in court. If you make your mediation presentations as dynamic as possible, you will achieve better billing results for your customers.
Step 4. Willingness to negotiate
Many lawyers live and love to go to court. Our company definitely does. But we also know that reaching an agreement is often the most pragmatic way to resolve a lawsuit.
One of our largest settlements in 2020 was on behalf of a victim of a motor vehicle accident who was seriously injured by a distracted driver. The defendant in this case was one of the 20 largest employers in San Bernardino and the second largest university system in California. Many well-funded defendants have historically felt that they discourage litigation by dragging a matter out for years and continue to get away with it by using the effects of COVID as an excuse. We never allowed ourselves to be intimidated in 2020 and saw through this approach.
By successfully transitioning to electronic communications and video communications, strengthening our strategy, and taking our clients’ goals into account, we ultimately reached a $ 3.25 million settlement.
The willingness to negotiate complements our last step …
Step 5. Be patient
Let’s be honest, patience was already in short supply before COVID. The digital age has already got us used to instant gratification in many facets of our lives.
Individual practitioners and those in small and boutique businesses who show patience set the tone for professionalism, collaboration and customer service. For example, the last eight months of the case mentioned in Step 4 occurred at the height of the pandemic, which was quite a challenge given the defendant’s resources. But persistence leads to the fact that your customer gets the most favorable result.
Despite the hurdles of the pandemic and with special consideration of the people and institutions that were badly affected, our company saw the past year as an opportunity to do our best work.
After getting into the habit of following the steps above, we saw successes in and outside the virtual courtroom that renewed our enthusiasm for the business and practice of law.
The time saved by just traveling can be used to focus on providing better customer service and making more convincing arguments in front of a judge. By adapting to changes in the legal landscape, setting manageable expectations, and leveraging technological offerings, small law firms can successfully take action against the best-funded opposition during COVID.