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State bar associations offer law firm-specific guidance on COVID-19 back to office reopening

By Joy P. Waltemath, J.D.

State bar associations providing specific recommendations for reopening law firms generally have suggested a cautious and conscientious approach.

Although almost all state bar associations have devoted some part of their internet presence to COVID-19 resources, and most have a dedicated page or pages containing COVID-19 specific guidance of concern to legal professionals, only a handful have provided law firm-specific guidance on how to reopen a law office.

Not all states designated law firms as essential businesses that were allowed to remain open earlier this spring during mandatory business closures, and even among those that did, law firms often were asked to have as few personnel reporting to a physical location as possible. Now, as more and more states appear to be fully embracing reopening (even as some of them are reporting higher and higher numbers of cases and positive test rates), guidance for how to safely reopen is at a premium.

The most detailed guidance targeting law firm reopening comes from the state bar associations in Indiana, New Jersey, and New York, although Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina all provide specific guidance for law firms (Pennsylvania’s guidance is accessible by bar members only).

These state bars generally suggest a cautious and conscientious approach, beginning with identifying a reopening planning team. Once a representative planning team has been identified, state bar guidance generally suggests that law firms develop plans to address these major components:

1. preparing the workplace;
2. preparing the workforce;
3. preparing (creating or revising) your policies and procedures;
4. communicating your plan.

To read about the state bar associations’ key recommendations, see “State bar associations identify key trends in law firm-specific guidance on back to office.”