What should law firms be doing to prepare for reopening their offices?
Office reopening guidelines have not been laid in concrete, leaving many law firms interpreting government, CDC and bar associations recommendations to determine their plan of action.
Having a plan of action, however, will mean as restrictions ease, if there is a documented process to follow then as soon as the green light to open is given firms can get back. As law firms lay out a reopening plan, they should keep in mind a number of considerations.
The New York Bar Association put together a checklist of items for law firms to use as they prep to return, which can be a helpful starting point to review.
Layout and flow
Law firms should consider the flow of traffic in their office and seek to create one-way traffic where possible. For those in high-traffic areas, such as reception desks, consider installing protective barriers and installing signs regarding social distancing.
Policies should be put into place determining the number of individuals in an office at a time, as well as the visitor policy (if any). Key-less entry systems should also be considered to limit the number of individuals touching door handles.
Restrictions should be placed in order to limit face to face interaction and to restrict access to common areas.
Products and cleaning
Create a cleaning plan to make sure that all potential areas for transmission are regularly wiped down. This could mean every few hours to every day depending on how frequently they are used.
It’s also important to ensure that adequate resources are available, including cleaning supplies and coverings to ensure compliance with CDC and OSHA guidelines.
Determine how many people will be working at a given time and if certain jobs can continue to be done remotely. Firms can also consider alternating schedules to reduce the number of people at a given time.
For example, you could have A and B groups. To start, those in the A group could come in on Tuesdays and those in the B group could come in on Thursdays. In the next month, it could be alternating days.
Also be sure to develop a plan to respond to requests for accommodations should at-risk staff feel unsafe in returning. Thought should be given to any potential to screen employees for COVID and to develop policies regarding potential infection.
1. NYSBA Working Group Guidance on Re-opening Law Firms
2. How You Can Plan for a Safe Reopening