Nearly 200 attorneys tuned into the MSBA Webinar “Surviving as a Solo or Small Law Firm,” on March 31, a discussion moderated by Joseph Owens addressing the concerns of maintaining your business, serving your clients, and upholding your professional requirements during the COVID-19 crisis.
Matt Kraeuter discussed the expansion of employee protections pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which include providing ten days’ emergency sick leave for sick employees or those who have to care for minor children; an extension of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to up to 10 weeks; and the expansion of unemployment benefits to include self-employed individuals, contractors, and gig workers.
Glen Frost talked about programs available through the Maryland Department of Commerce (MDOC), which is offering a $10,000 grant program for small businesses and a $50,000 loan program. Frost also discussed the largest infusion of capital into small businesses—the federal payroll protection program, which allows businesses to apply for and receive up to 2.5 times’ worth of payroll expenses in order to retain workers and pay necessities such as mortgage, rent, or utilities. Finally, Frost discussed tax incentives, including deferring FICA payments for the duration of 2020, and taking a tax credit for quarterlies.
Valerie Nowottnick’s discussion centered on the pros and cons of working from home, including how to facilitate productivity, manage staff, and ensure information security. Nowottnick emphasized the importance of protecting emails and any other online content by, for example, purchasing a domain name and ensuring that your home router is protected from outside users.
Irwin Kramer discussed the increased risk of subjecting yourself to a grievance during this time of crisis, touching on the importance of maintaining communication, documenting phone calls, and following the rules when it comes to things like co-signing settlement checks (do not sign on behalf of client without a POA!). Kramer emphasized that attorneys must not borrow from their trust accounts even if clients are not paying and money is tight. On a positive note, Kramer urged using this time to invest in your practice: by marketing, investing in and implementing technology, and increasing your social media presence.
Lisa Kaplan from the MSBA emphasized the importance of self-care and keeping anxiety down during this unsettled time. In addition to reaching out to friends, engaging in hobbies, and exercising, Lisa urged anyone in need to contact her and also to take part in the MSBA’s weekly COVID-19 support group on Wednesdays from 2:00-3:00, which she facilitates.
Tara Ross, JD/RN, speaking as a nurse, noted that while law firms are “essential businesses,” and serving clients is important, we can’t forget that this is an extremely dangerous virus and all precautions must be taken to protect yourself, your families, and your employees.
This Webinar was recorded and is available to view below or on the MSBA youtube channel. If you’d prefer to listen to the webinar subscribe to the MSBA podcast feed on your favorite podcast app or visit our soundcloud