Help Where It’s Needed Most: Shifting Practice Areas In Response To COVID-19

Considering alternative practice area offerings

As concerns and restrictions related to COVID-19 continue to upend lives throughout the U.S., attorneys at small law firms are facing many new realities. Not only must they adjust to the challenges of working from home, but many are struggling to determine how the impending economic downturn will affect their clients and legal practice.

As circumstances for legal consumers continue to evolve, as an attorney, it may be wise to shift your focus and explore practice areas that are likely to experience growth in the coming months. By expanding your current legal offerings or moving into one or more of these practice areas, you can help strengthen your firm’s operations and provide help to legal consumers in need.

Employment Law: Passed by Congress last month, the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, expands medical leave for individuals who take time off of work to attend to their health or care for a family member. While the law provides a much-needed safety net for millions of employees, it also raises a lot of questions and its massive scope means there will be a lot to unravel for quite some time. Small businesses will need guidance on how to comply with provisions of the law and workers will need help understanding and asserting their rights. Additionally, wage-and-hour issues are bound to spring up as businesses that were forced to close struggle to make payroll and employees who fell ill file benefits-related claims.

Contract Law: Contracts and agreements signed within the last few weeks may be subject to claims of frustration of purpose or impossibility. Furthermore, it’s almost certain that force majeure clauses will be disputed as debates arise as to whether the COVID-19 pandemic legally constitutes as an unforeseeable set of circumstances. Additionally, in the coming weeks and months, landlords, vendors, purchasers, and professional service providers are likely to encounter contract issues that will need to be resolved by an attorney.

Family Law: With rising unemployment rates, some parents no longer have an income. Consequently, child support agreements may need to be revisited. Also, how will “social distancing” impact child custody agreements? Some parents may have concerns and fears about whether a co-parent is complying with social distancing measures and stay at home orders and may therefore be reluctant to observe the terms of current agreements.

Estate Planning Law: Times of uncertainty frequently prompt legal consumers to take action to regain a sense of control and obtain peace of mind. In response, attorneys should be prepared to answer and address numerous estate planning questions and concerns. For many, COVID-19 serves as a stark reminder of the importance of having a comprehensive estate plan in place and it’s likely the current crisis will result in a greater number of parents drafting wills to determine guardianship issues and individuals making additions or updates to existing estate plans.

Social Security Disability Law: The Families First Coronavirus Act expands food assistance and unemployment benefits and increases Medicaid funding, which may raise eligibility questions for individuals who are currently enrolled in certain government programs. Disruptions related to COVID-19 will also likely result in a surge in the number of people who are applying for government assistance and some may need legal representation. Lawmakers have also signified that they plan to pass additional government-supplied benefits and aid programs. As those funds are dispensed, eligible consumers will need assistance securing the monies and benefits to which they are legally entitled.

Consumer Protection Law: Unfortunately, during times of great upheaval, there are some who seek to unfairly profit. From online scams and price gouging to the sale and distribution of counterfeit products, attorneys will be called upon to help ensure that consumers’ rights are being protected and promoted.

In the months ahead, the work you do as an attorney will play a critical role in strengthening and rebuilding our society. To help you carryout this vital work, Thomson Reuters created the COVID-19 Resource Center.

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