The following government and business resources and expert advice offer support for your and your clients' businesses. Check out our new Returning to the Office section in this Hub for guidelines and tips as you transition back to physical operations at your firm.

Practice Management Resources
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Desktop or Laptop Computer

This guide is prepared to support lawyers who are appearing in a court conducting proceedings using MS Teams on a desktop or laptop computer. It should be read in conjunction with any Notice to the Public and Profession from the court which outlines the procedures specific to that court.

Download the Guide.

Telephone

This guide is prepared to support lawyers who are appearing in a court conducting proceedings using MS Teams by phone. It should be read in conjunction with any Notice to the Public and Profession from the court which outlines the procedures specific to that court. For example, see NP21 from the Provincial Court of British Columbia. 

Download the Guide.

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Download a PDF of these Best Practices


All Court of Appeal hearings scheduled on or after May 4, 2020 will proceed by videoconference, through Zoom Webinar. This guide should be read in supplement to the Notice to the Public Regarding Videoconference Proceedings in the Court of Appeal and the Court Proceedings by Videoconferences Form.

This guide outlines best practices to work with the technology, to adapt to the online courtroom, and addresses relevant security issues. As experience with the platform develops, you may have suggestions for updates to this document. Please email those to members@cbabc.org.

Working with the Technology 
  • You will want a fast internet connection - learn about the speed of your internet connection on speedtest.net and make adjustments if needed.
  • Be prepared for your internet to fail – plan for alternative solutions, such as using your phone’s hot spot, a mobile internet stick, or a friendly neighbour. Be prepared with call-in numbers for your internet provider in the event that you unexpectedly cannot get an internet source to work.
  • You can strengthen your internet connectivity by setting up close to the WiFi router or directly plugging into the LAN.
  • Be sure to download the Zoom App, available here.
  • Use headphones with a microphone – those speaking with headphones come across clearer and louder than those simply speaking into their built-in microphone computer. In addition, wearing headphones prevent echoing of incoming audio for other hearing participants.
  • Use two screens (if possible) – using two screens will allow you to toggle between the hearing, private chats, and relevant documents efficiently and simultaneously.
  • Consider your lighting. At the time of day you are in court, will there be shadows on your face or are you back-lit from an adjacent window or light source? Fix that in advance.
  • Enlisting advice from tech support – for those unfamiliar with Zoom, you can contact members@cbabc.org with requests for help before your hearing to get comfortable with using the platform.
Adapting to the Environment 
  • Have everything you need within reach - select a space where you can have factums, appeal books, written material, water and your video-enabled computer in the same place. You don’t want something to fall off the table during the hearing.
  • Rely on a compendium – to help participants locate the right document efficiently, have a compendium with paginated documents you anticipate relying on ready. The compendium is key to avoid searching for page references during the hearing and using your time for submissions efficiently.
  • Standing - in a Zoom Courtroom, you are not required to stand when addressing the court, however as standing while addressing the court is habit, you can choose to set up your workspace and video to facilitate standing (i.e. using a standing desk) when addressing the court as well as when they are seated.
  • Communication with the Court - when you are speaking, periodically pause and look to the judges to check to see if they need you to stop so that they can ask you a question. Remember to put yourself on mute after you finish speaking.
  • Communicating with Your Co-counsel or Client – if your co-counsel and/or client is not in the same location as you (physically distant of course), set up an electronic method to connect such as MS Teams, WhatsApp, email, text or other forms of instant messaging have been used effectively by counsel.
  • Communicating with Opposing Counsel – if you were in person, you might pass a note or talk to one another on a break. Agree in advance what method of communication you will use in communicating with opposing counsel such as MS Teams, WhatsApp, email, text, etc.
  • Be mindful of facial expressions – your camera provides a much closer and direct view of your face than the judges and other counsel would have otherwise, so try to keep your expression reasonably neutral.
Security Issues & Solutions 

You may have concerns about security issues. These have all be considered in selecting Zoom for this platform. For those unfamiliar with Zoom, some of the common concerns are addressed below. If you have further concerns, you can raise them in the Court Proceeding by Videoconference Form.

Zoom bombing

Zoom bombing occurs when hackers or other individuals access and disrupt a live meeting. However, all court hearings are held via Zoom webinar which has strong security controls.

What Zoom has done: Zoom has additional security measures which include a new process of changing security settings for the host and the participant.

Suggested practices for Participants: Don’t share your Zoom link with other individuals. You can view more helpful practices here.

Lack of end-to-end encryption

Data that users send is “encrypted,” in other words, secure, when it travels from one Zoom application to a Zoom server, or vice versa. Zoom does not “decrypt,” or in other words, read the data, before it reaches the Zoom app to which it is sent.

However, if you log onto Zoom without using the app – such as through a phone line, or legacy video conference systems – it is not automatically encrypted. This presents a theoretical vulnerability in the context of pre-trial conferences and the other court proceedings that are not intended to be public.

What Zoom has done: Zoom has created “Zoom connectors,” specialized clients that can be invited to the meeting upon the request of the meeting host to encrypt data sent to and from non-Zoom applications. Zoom has also stopped routing traffic through servers that are identified as vulnerable by experts at University of Toronto and elsewhere.

Suggested practices for Lawyers: Please ensure that you and your client are using the Zoom app to access the hearing.

Other Resources:
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The CBABC Criminal Justice Section April newsletter included 8 tips for for navigating a virtual hearing (from the article Adapting to a New Normal: Our Experience at the Divisional Court's First Virtual Hearing):

  1. Be Prepared for your Internet to Fail – plan for alternative solutions, such as using your phone’s hot spot, a mobile internet stick, or a friendly neighbour, and be aware of call-in options in the event you cannot get an internet source to work;
  2. Two Screens are Key – while not strictly necessary, using two screens provides you with easier access to the hearing, private chats, and relevant documents at the same time (and helps guard against inadvertent display of information during screen sharing);
  3. Use Headphones with a Microphone – those speaking with headphones came across clearer and louder than those simply speaking into their computer;
  4. Rely on a Compendium – it can be difficult to get participants to locate the right document efficiently, so a compendium with paginated documents you anticipate relying on is key to facilitating screen sharing of documents and using your time for submissions efficiently;
  5. Become Comfortable with Screen Sharing – this takes practice to do so quickly and without inadvertently sharing the wrong information, but is the most effective way to get a document before the court;
  6. Set-up an Independent Chat with your Team – the chat function was integral to support counsel making submissions, by providing relevant references, reminding them of important evidence to rely on and giving suggested responses to judicial questioning;
  7. Be Mindful of Facial Expressions – your camera provides a much closer and direct view of your face than the judges and other counsel would otherwise have, so try to keep a poker face;
  8. Enlist Support and Advice – consider engaging a Specialist or Technician who can provide technical advice and support before and during a hearing, as it ensures that you can focus on the substance of the hearing rather than the technical aspects.
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Tips and advice from the Law Society of BC, April 6, 2020

The Law Society has heard from many lawyers in British Columbia who are concerned about their economic future as individuals and as businesses. Our Practice Advisors and other departments have put together some tips and advice for lawyers and students that address the business impacts they are experiencing during this difficult time.

We are indebted to the Law Society of Alberta, which produced similar recommendations, some of which we have modified for the BC context.

  1. Apply for federal or provincial grants, programs or other relief available for individuals and small businesses.
  2. Speak with commercial lenders about interest relief or deferral of loan payments without interest.
  3. Discuss rent reduction or deferrals with landlords, and apply for utility and property tax deferrals.
  4. Seek remote bookkeeping services in the event you or your bookkeeper are quarantined.
  5. Ask insurers about policies and business interruption insurance for COVID-19. If no business interruption coverage is available, consider improvements to the existing policy and consider products by other insurers.
  6. Learn about student loan deferrals made available by the federal and provincial governments.
  7. Be aware of leave provisions and employment standards regarding layoff and termination of employment related to COVD-19. Keep in mind the requirements for lawyers leaving firms. Read “Ethical considerations when a lawyer leaves a firm” in the Summer 2017 Benchers’ Bulletin (p.15).
  8. Continue to comply with the Law Society’s trust assurance requirements. With staff working remotely, supervision becomes a bigger challenge, which creates more risk for anyone handling money. Lawyers must continue to be vigilant about monies leaving their trust and general accounts.
  9. Although pursuant to s. 9 of the Emergency Act limitation periods are suspended from March 26, 2020 until the date of declaration of a state of emergency regarding COVID expires or is cancelled, ensure you take care of filings as soon as you can and well in advance of the day the emergency order expires or is cancelled. 
  10. While working remotely, take steps to protect client confidentiality and maintain security over books and records.
  11. If you are struggling, reach out for help. If you are having trouble coping with economic pressure, isolation or any type of anxiety or depression, the Lawyers Assistance Program remains open to support you by phone or through other means. LifeWorks is also available to provide counselling and resources.
  12. Make sure that all staff are coping well. Keep in touch with your teams while working remotely.
  13. Be cautious about phishing attempts and emails that are out of the ordinary or that contain instructions to send money or share passwords and contact information. Fraudsters may take advantage of the disruption and panic surrounding the pandemic. Read risk management tips here.
  14. Keep up to date on issues affecting your practice areas and solutions that others have developed. Tap into your professional associations to stay connected. Be sure to check the Law Society’s web page dedicated to updates on COVID-19.
  15. Stay in touch with clients. Give clients regular updates of any legal developments and discuss strategies that can be implemented once the pandemic is over.
  16. This may not be the best time to be aggressively pursuing outstanding statements of account, and this should be considered on a client by client basis.
  17. Carve out some time to think about the future and the services that will be needed after the pandemic. Make sure you are well prepared for the next possible disaster or pandemic. Document any processes that worked well or areas for improvement.
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Relevant articles and a Working from Home resource hub from legal software provider Clio. 

Leading with Empathy in Times of Transition

Working Remotely as a Lawyer 

Resources for Lawyers Working from Home 

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The Ontario Bar Association has prepared a checklist for remote practice. Please note there are some references to Ontario-specific resources and organizations that are not applicable to lawyers in BC.

Easy-Reference Guide to Online Lawyering

 

Small Business Resources
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Small Business BC has launched the B.C. Business COVID-19 Support Service. This one-stop resource answers questions about supports available to businesses from the provincial and federal governments, industry and community partners. Visit covid.smallbusinessbc.ca for information on Funding & Financial Relief, Managing Your Business, Employee Management, and more.

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BC Chamber of Commerce has a good list of resources for businesses affected by COVID-19. 

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The BCEDA #COVID19 Resources for BC Businesses Guide is a shareable live document continually updated with the most relevant information, tools and resources for the BC business community. 80+ pages of information including industry specific resources, utilities, insurance and banking information, links to webinars and more. Plus their Community Resources page offers resources for Economic Developers and Local Leaders.

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Clio has committed $1 million to help the global legal community navigate the challenges of COVID-19. They have an assistance program and a number of support resources available on their website

Guidance for Employers
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Advice from Korn Ferry consultants on how to lead through and beyond COVID-19

In the age of social distancing amid COVID-19, what makes work, well, work?

Disruption abounds. Many companies have shut down travel and enacted mandatory working from home, where they can. Employees are grappling with chaotic home working environments – or continuing to come to work, uneasily, for jobs that can’t be done anywhere else.

What can organizations do at this critical moment to keep work going – and importantly, to care for, and guide their people at a time of tremendous stress? Let’s examine the issue from the point of view of both leaders and employees –then turn to some practical solutions that address both perspectives.

Learn more.

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WorkSafeBC’s Preventing exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace provides general information that all employers may use to assess the risks and controls in their workplace.

You may also wish to review our industry information pages for preventative measures to protect workers in specific industries from COVID-19.

Learn about some additional steps to take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 here.

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Objective: Provide a framework for risk-informed decision making about public health actions for workplaces/businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Audience(s): Employers and business owners can use this document to consider risks associated with their workplace/business, the implementation of risk mitigation strategies, and in consultation with local public health authorities (PHA) regarding decisions to close workplaces. PHA can use this tool to support decision-making about workplaces/businesses in their jurisdictions.

Learn more.

Government Assistance Programs
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The Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan includes support programs for businesses such as: supportive tax measures, credit increases for all Canadian businesses experiencing cash flow challenges, the launch of an insured mortgage purchase program, employee wage subsidies and special support for vulnerable groups. Read the full Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan

Canada’s Resources for Business include considerations for employees, businesses, business travel and events; and international markets. Read more

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BC’s COVID-19 Action Plan includes the following information for businesses:

Read the BC COVID-19 Action Plan for information on personal and business programs.

CBA PANDEMIC RESOURCES
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The CBA’s National Labour and Employment Law Section created a pandemic preparedness resource guide to address key questions for employers, unions and employees.

This guide helps lawyers prepare their clients and advise them during a pandemic. It can also be used by lawyers to assess the effect a pandemic could have on their own workplace. It covers such things as pandemic plans, vaccination requirements, work refusals, forced absences, compassionate care leave and doctor’s notes. The guide includes a concise two-page chart that can be shared with clients and covers what to expect and what measures to take during three different stages of a pandemic in the workplace.

DOWNLOAD

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It’s the topic on everyone’s mind – what do you do in a pandemic. And for employment lawyers specifically – how do you protect the workplace? What type of legislation are we dealing with when it comes to responding to pandemics? Learn more with guest Sheila Osborne-Brown. Recorded Feb 27, 2020.