Post-pandemic response practice plan

Due to COVID-19 practitioners may be continually reviewing their practice offerings and asking one of the following four questions:

  1. How do we get back to the way things were? The 'Back to Normal' response.
  2. What brand new place shall we go? The 'Dramatic Radical Change' response.
  3. What can we learn and adopt? 'The Capture Pandemic Learnings and Adjust' response.
  4. How do we cease operations? 'The Close Down' response.

Overall, you may also be asking yourself the following:

  • What are your firm’s core competencies?
  • What services can you deliver efficiently and profitably?
  • Who is your ideal client profile?

The Back to Normal response

By and large practitioners are able to resume legal practice with a few modifications – or improvements – to the way it used to be.

Working remotely (usually from home) is a critical business concern. Ensure your systems support remote working arrangements and that you are able to move seamlessly and quickly from working in the office to working remotely. Consider this resource.

Consider whether any changes to practice made during the pandemic should be adopted, or at least added to your toolkit ie offering video conferences with clients.

The Dramatic Radical Change

Ask yourself:

  • What is the ideal size and shape of your practice to attend to the currently available workflow in order to maintain sustainable profitability?
  • Do you need to increase or re-deploy staff from one area of the practice to another?
  • Can you identify ancillary legal services that support your practice’s vision and objectives that you could implement with little upskill or adjustment?
  • Do you need to pivot your practice into other service areas? Consider this resource.
  • Do you need to consider your office space and other commitments associated with the practice?

If you feel there is merit in considering this change:

  • Set a realistic timeline to transition practices areas in or out of your practice.
  • Speak with your accountant and/or financial planner.
  • Review your contract register – are you paying for services and equipment that you no longer require? Consider re-negotiating payment terms.
  • Do you need to speak with an employment lawyer before terminating or re-deploying employees? Consider when and how you will communicate your closure to staff. What services will you offer to support staff transitioning? ie LawCare.

Review your client list. Identify* each client as either:

  • An anchor (or key) client;
  • An emerging client;
  • A bread and butter client; or
  • A distracting client.

You are then in a position to consider:

  • Which clients do you want to take with you into your reinvented legal practice?
  • What messages will you send your clients to communicate the changes occurring?
  • When and how will you make these communications?

The Capture Pandemic Learnings and Adjust response

What are your core areas of competency – these are usually the services that you can deliver efficiently and profitably. What have been the trends in this area of practice – are instructions steady, decreasing or increasing?

What changes do you need to implement in your practice to enable you to continue operating profitably and sustainably?

Working remotely is a critical business concern. Ensure your systems support remote working arrangements and that you are able to continue to move seamlessly and quickly from working in the office to working remotely. Consider this resource.

Consider whether any changes to practice made during the pandemic should be permanently adopted, or added to your toolkit ie offering video conferences with clients.

Do you need to pivot your practice into other service areas? Consider this resource.

Review your client list. Identify* each client as either:

  • An anchor (or key) client;
  • An emerging client;
  • A bread and butter client; or
  • A distracting client.

Do you need to terminate retainers with distracting clients? What messages will you send your clients to communicate the changes occurring?

The Close Down response

Some questions you should consider:

  • Should you close down, hibernate, sell or merge your practice? Consider this resource.
  • Speak with your accountant and/or financial planner. When is the best time for you to close your practice taking into account your tax and financial obligations? Schedule a date and prioritise tasks.
  • Review your contract register – do you have on-going contractual obligations that will exist after your close down date? ie equipment leases, software agreements. Consider whether you can negotiate an exit from these obligations, budget for lump sum payouts, seek advice if your obligations will cause financial distress.
  • Do you need to speak with an employment lawyer before terminating employees? Have you properly provisioned for all staff entitlements? Consider when and how you will communicate your closure to staff. What services will you offer to support staff transitioning? ie LawCare.
  • Do you hold safe custody? How are you going to arrange for the disbursement of client records?
  • Have you completed a thorough audit of files? Consider the manner in which you will communicate your closure to clients.

Use our closing a law practice checklist.

*As a percentage, how would you characterise your current client base:

  • Anchor clients – Usually match your ideal client profile, potential to require your core legal services, support your strategic direction.
  • Emerging clients.
  • Bread and Butter clients.
  • Distracting Clients.

QLS Ethics and Practice Centre would like to acknowledge Randal Dennings’ contribution to this resource.