There is no clear answer, as the coronavirus pandemic has yet to subside in the United States. For unrestricted public and professional activity, many different but interconnected pieces must be in place.
Because each state has taken its own path in responding to the coronavirus, state authorities will have to determine if cases are low enough to allow continued reopening. (Unless there was limited shutdown in those states.)
Because legal services are generally considered an essential activity, law firms have been able to stay open or return to office spaces in many places. However, mask mandates are widely required. Given that masks are shown to significantly reduce the transmission of the virus, the growing adoption of mask-wearing may help return public and professional life to a more normal routine. Many offices have also accommodated a safer return to work by limiting the number of employees on-site at any time, increasing cleaning and sanitation procedures, and implementing social distancing measures.
COVID-19 may have a lasting impact on physical offices, though. Remote work has long been a topic of debate within the legal community and law firms have generally been slow to adopt it. Now that it’s been implemented, some attorneys may be hesitant to go back to the office, pandemic or not.
Law firms aren’t the only consideration, either. Many courts throughout the country are providing restricted or modified legal services.
Practice areas may also see long lasting change. COVID-19 has created economic upheaval for a large portion of Americans, causing a lasting recession. More firms have shifted to cover health law, bankruptcy, and employment law. To see a return to previous legal practice areas, it will require a noticeable economic upswing.
Another area of consideration is salaries. To remain afloat, many law firms made significant cuts to attorney salaries. Some law firms are still implementing austerity measures, and even introducing additional cuts. However, others have returned to normal levels of pay. Again, for this to even out will likely require sustained economic growth.
1. The New Normal for Law Firms in the Era of COVID-19
2. COVID-19 Pushed Legal Toward Tech, Remote Work. There May Be No Going Back
3. Key Return-To-Work Considerations For Law Firms
4. Adjusting the COVID-19 Response: How Law Firms Are Altering Austerity Measures