We are living in unprecedented times. Amidst the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, much of the world has come to a standstill. And yet, people are still getting injured at work, at home and elsewhere every day. When they do, they are often confused about what steps to take next in this chaotic and confusing time.
For example, one question we here at Enjuris have been wondering is: Are law firms considered essential businesses?
To get to the bottom of this question and more — and to help better understand how coronavirus shutdowns are impacting the legal sector and injury plaintiffs in various states — we asked each of our Enjuris Premier Attorney Members a few questions about how their team and their clients are coping during the pandemic.
Here’s what Florida injury attorney George Lorenzo of Lorenzo & Lorenzo had to say.
Q: Are law firms and legal services considered “essential businesses” in Florida?
A: Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-91 (commonly known as the “stay at home order”) on April 1, 2020, and it took effect on April 3, 2020. This order specifically addresses the issue of what are essential services and activities during this COVID-19 emergency.
A review of EO 20-91 and EO 20-89 (issued on March 30, 2020) gives guidance as to what are essential services as defined by the Order. In Section 1. of EO 20-89, the Governor references Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 07-20, which defines essential services in Florida.
In Section 2.t. of Miami-Dade County’s Emergency Order 07-20, officials define as an essential service the following:
“Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities”
Accordingly, as Executive Order 20-91 stands today, law firms are considered an essential service provider. Therefore, it is my intention to stay open unless the Governor excludes legal services from the list of essential service providers. We will do everything necessary to assist our clients while remaining in compliance with legally mandated activities per the Governor orders.
Q: How has coronavirus affected your law firm and your clients?
A: We are accommodating all employees who have children at home and are encountering child care/schooling difficulties.
We are also accommodating at-risk employees (in accordance with the CDC guidelines) and allowing them to work from home. In light of the decrease in auto traffic due to the stay-at-home orders, accidents are significantly down and thereby decreasing the number of new cases that we are currently intaking.
In-person traffic at the office is down by 90%, due to the fact that we are encouraging our team to keep in-person meetings to a minimum and when required, to keep a safe social distance away from the clients.
If a client must come to our office in-person, we have sanitizing wipes and gel at the front desk when clients first walk in, and we are wiping down door handles and tables where clients have touched. For those of us who are still working in the office, we have instituted safe working distances from each other and no one is less than 6 feet apart. In fact, I don’t believe any employee is working less than at least 8 feet from another employee.
We are working with everyone to try to make this process as safe as possible while continuing to provide excellent legal services to our clients.
Q: What expectations do your clients have regarding their case?
A: Client’s expect us to move their case along in a normal fashion, and we are doing that for the most part. However, there is some delay being caused by clients’ fears regarding visiting medical treatment facilities. But those clients who are continuing to treat their injuries are seeing very little effect on the progress of their cases during this pandemic.
Q: What would you like prospective clients to know during this crisis?
A: We are here to serve you in a safe, efficient fashion — and we are meeting all the guidelines set by the CDC for essential businesses.
Q: What’s the best way for people to reach you during this time?
A: Since we remain open, all the traditional ways of communicating with our firm are available to our clients — phone, email, Facebook, walk-in, etc. As always, we prefer a phone call to assure the client that there will be no waiting period if they need to meet with us in-person or otherwise. As usual, we always answer all phone calls immediately.