With more law firms closing their offices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, some lawyers are running into the technology curve that comes with working from home.
Many firms have equipped their attorneys with laptops, scanners and printers, but Gary Phelan of Stratford-based Mitchell & Sheahan said working remotely still takes some time to get used to.
“I am old school when it relates to technology,” Phelan said. “For example, I still write on legal pads. But over the past two weeks, I’ve been immersed in responding to media requests, seven in total. It’s forced me to deal with the issue. Yesterday, I used Skype for the first time to do an interview.”
Bridgeport criminal defense attorney Robert Berke said having meetings via teleconferencing and videoconferencing is “challenging for the type of work I do. In criminal defense, personal relationships are very important and it’s not easy to have that personal relationship when you are videoconferencing.”
Berke, whose Law Offices of Robert Berke has three attorneys and one paralegal, said “it’s a challenge that I have yet to overcome. I’ve had six videoconferences with other lawyers, clients and even one witness since last week and people are skeptical. They are more comfortable in person as opposed to being on the phone.”
Michael D’Amico, a partner with Watertown-based D’Amico & Pettinicchi, said Monday his staff—comprised of four attorneys and four support staff—is learning to work from home, but said it’s not as convenient as being in the office.
“We are getting used to operating remotely when before we had everything at the office at our fingertips,” D’Amico said. “Printing and scanning, for example, is difficult at home where they are slow and have limited capabilities. Using your cellphone with a scanning app is not the same as it is at the office.”
D’Amico said his firm, which does personal injury work and medical malpractice litigation, has also found out that conducting depositions via videoconferencing has its own set of problems.
“It’s challenging now more than ever because many of those we want to depose, including medical doctors and nurses, have more pressing issues now and other responsibilities” due to the coronavirus, D’Amico said.
At the Glastonbury-based Connecticut Trial Firm, co-owner and partner Andrew Garza said it’s been easier for his firm because “our practice is entirely paperless. Every piece of mail in the office is scanned and shredded. The only thing we keep that is actual paper are the deposition transcripts for active litigation.”
Garza said the firm’s 10 employees, including four attorneys, all have a laptop, scanner and printer at home. “We use a program called Slack, which is how we do all of our internal communications. We’ve been able to maintain contact with everyone consistently despite what is happening in the outside world.”
Garza said he has encouraged opposing counsel at defense firms to “try to resolve cases remotely, if possible. We can do remote depositions, remote mediations, and remote arbitrations. We need to find a way to move business ourselves. If everyone hits the pause button and waits for the courts to open, the courts will be crushed with cases when they do open.”