Pandemic Practice Points

Maintaining a successful Family Law practice during COVID-19

Pandemic Practice Points

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced significant unprecedented challenges to all aspects of our lives. Due to stressors such as individuals losing their jobs, complete disruption of our conventional routines, and restrictions on socializing outside of one’s household, the pandemic has particularly taken a toll on couples and families. In fact, the stressors of COVID-19 have contributed to an increase in divorce rates in Canada and around the world.

The consequent increase in case load for family law practitioners is a challenge that practitioners are continuing to adapt to. In the face of the increased case load for many practitioners, this article details some practice points for maintaining a successful family law practice during the “new normal” of the pandemic.

Embracing technology

In March 2020, courts in British Columbia closed for all but urgent matters. This measure, along with the provincial health officer’s order for businesses to close, led to the necessity of embracing the use of more technology in family law.

For chambers matters, family law practitioners adapted to remote appearances held on Microsoft Teams or by phone. Similarly, mediations and arbitrations are occurring remotely on Zoom. Requirements for the verification of identity have adapted to allow for remote verification by video. Finally, more than ever, lawyers are using technology, such as Zoom and teleconferencing, to meet and to communicate with clients.

For law firms to continue their practices seamlessly on a remote basis, it is imperative to ensure that lawyers and staff all have access to computers and systems support. It is also helpful to ensure that all lawyers and staff have an effective, reliable and constant means of communication, such as by phone or by Slack instant messenger.

Increasing Flexibility

Not only is being flexible important for the practice of law during the pandemic, but it is also important for clients, who now more than ever have competing obligations with work and family. COVID-19 has taught family law practitioners to utilize creative strategies to most effectively help our clients. As one example, client meetings have largely transitioned to Zoom and phone conferences.

Collaboration between practitioners has also adapted to a more flexible platform: although practice group meetings and file check-ins cannot happen in-person in the firm, they do occur regularly on Zoom or videoconference. Maintaining this connection and collaboration among colleagues is crucial to a successful family law practice, not only to keep everyone informed and in the loop but also to maintain rapport and strong relationships.

Networking and Marketing

While legal conferences and seminars have moved to online platforms, family law practitioners should use creative strategies to maintain and even increase networking and marketing. Despite the lack of in-person network opportunities, there has been a rise in “Zoom coffee” meetings, online networking events, and LinkedIn connections. For example, Clark Wilson’s family law group has produced various blog series, such as the Valentine’s Day and Parenting During a Pandemic series, to market their services to clients. Blog posts are an excellent way of marketing while also communicating to clients our knowledge of the newest developments in the law.

Keeping in touch with clients

Lastly, it is imperative to maintain open communication with clients. Let clients know that although you may be working from home, your practice will otherwise be “business as usual” and they will not notice any disruption in your representation of them. Continue to keep clients informed regarding any further changes to office policies and services. Your clients will appreciate being kept apprised of your processes and it will comfort them to know that their family matter can continue to move forward despite the pandemic.