Thursday, 19 March 2020

The LMICK Minute - Issue #2

Posted in Newsletters

To our Policyholders,

Given the recent developments regarding the spread of the Coronavirus and the social distancing that has been mandated as a result, we wanted to share some information with you and encourage you to take care of your health and protect your practice during this time of uncertainty.

It goes without saying that your number one priority is to protect your health and stay well. There are countless resources available to inform you of the preventative measures that you should be taking to ensure that you stay healthy. As a reminder, please wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water; disinfect your homes and offices; avoid close contact with others, particularly anyone who is unwell; and consult a medical professional immediately if you become sick with a flu-like or upper respiratory illness. The following links include helpful information, guidelines and best practices for your consideration and for ease of reference:

Aside from giving attention to your personal well-being, and the health of your loved ones, we know that you are concerned about what this pandemic means for your practice. We cannot discuss exhaustively every issue that may arise in that regard, but we wish to provide you some points for consideration.

  • Be vigilant against bad actors attempting to take advantage during the public health crisis/remain steadfast in your processes and procedures and avoid shortcuts (our National Association of Bar Related Insurance Company counterpart in North Carolina alerted us to a wire fraud attempt in which a purported seller, aggressively and threatening a malpractice lawsuit and a bar complaint, demanded of the lawyer that the seller’s proceeds be wired immediately so that he/she could quickly invest in the stock market while prices are low due to the coronavirus pandemic);
  • Test your ability to successfully work remotely before you need to do so and establish procedures for you and your staff;
  • Double check that your calendar is up to date and complete AND have a back- up at home and at work – missed deadlines are the most likely issue to arise during this period in which your office may be closed or the person who manages your calendar may be sick;
  • Contact the courts if you have any question about deadlines or court appearances/there may be some variation in how each court is handling the standing orders regarding limited operations;
  • Utilize electronic filing to assist in meeting deadlines while courts are closed or in limited operations/if you have never filed electronically, perfect your capability to do so from work and home before you may need it;
  • If your office has to be closed, make arrangements for obtaining and processing the mail so that nothing time-sensitive is missed;
  • Be fastidious in protecting your clients’ information and documents if you are working remotely;
  • If you have employees in your office, understand your legal obligations to them via the American with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (passed recently by the House and to be taken up in the Senate in short order), etc.
  • Participate in depositions and court appearances remotely when and if possible; and
  • Keep your clients advised of how to reach you and reassure them of your efforts on their behalf during this time of fear and uncertainty/keeping your clients informed and managing the expectations is critically important.

We anticipate that many of your practice related questions and concerns are centered around court operations, closures, deadlines and docket management for the foreseeable future. Importantly, do NOT assume that your deadlines are extended because of the Supreme Court's Order(s) directing the courts to limit operations. Unless you've received a specific order in a specific case to the contrary, the due dates for briefs, notices of appeal, pretrial filings, etc. have not changed. Likewise, statutes of limitations are not tolled during this health crisis. Please assume that your statutes of limitation and other case deadlines still apply unless you obtain an order from the court changing a particular deadline, enter a tolling agreement extending a statute of limitation or secure and tender an agreed order with opposing counsel extending a deadline that is subsequently granted by the court. It would seem that each circuit is operating somewhat differently. If you have any questions about how to handle a deadline in one of your cases, the best practice will be to contact the clerk and court in the judicial circuit in which your case is pending for concrete guidance.

Finally, please know that we are taking care of ourselves so that we can help you when and if you need us. For now, LMICK’s office is open and we are taking all the appropriate precautions to stay well. If, however, our offices need to close at any point over the next few weeks, please remember you can contact us through the LMICK website. In the event of an office closure, we will be handling all inquiries and issues through the “contact” link on the website, including claims/incident reporting and applications and renewals. Your message will get to us even if we are working remotely and we can and will respond accordingly.

Please take care of yourselves and stay well. That is the best protection for your practice.