We may not think about attorneys as people who provide essential services. They don’t produce food or electricity or keep us happy. And we have all heard the lawyer jokes. But legal services are designated as essential services, and many lawyers have essential roles to play in this pandemic.
Attorney Matt Underwood is helping elderly people and others at risk from the virus with their estate planning and with preparing wills. This not only reduces anxiety but provides for the client in the unfortunate event that he or she would become one of the coronavirus fatalities.
Attorney Kevin Palmersheim is dealing with delays in litigation, helping employees with extended leave and labor law issues created by the pandemic.
Attorney David Krekeler is fielding lots of calls from business owners, and even individuals, who are running out of money. He is advising them about how best to survive the current stay at home situation and giving advice about how they would be able to again become solvent and get financially healthy when things eventually return to some state or normalcy.
Overall, the demand for some legal services is sharply reduced. Many law firms are laying off people, usually staff whose jobs cannot be handled well remotely. Firms are cutting pay and bonuses both for partners and associates.
But much of what lawyers do can be done remotely. Courts have adapted as well. They were already holding many conferences by telephone but are now greatly expanding the role of telephonic and video conferencing. Even hearings are being held in this manner.
The legal industry is not generally thought of as the quickest to adapt to technological change. The Wisconsin State Bar has stepped in and provided lawyers with both support and information. The Bar has been holding Town Halls on topics related to the pandemic and how various areas of practice are being impacted.
People being sued or arrested still need representation, and they need it now. Businesses in financial trouble need advice to save those businesses, and they need it now. Employers need information to protect their employees and themselves, and they need it now. Wisconsin’s lawyers are essential and they are stepping up to serve.