2020 is in the rear-view mirror – thank goodness. Whether 2021 is going to be appreciably better and get us back to “normal” remains to be seen. There certainly seems to be the beginnings of movement in the right direction. Your law offices may have been shuttered for much of the past year as we all transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic. Hopefully, you can now resume working from your office, have all your staff back at their posts, and welcome guests and visitors back into your workplace once again. Certainly, it feels like the dawn of a new phase of practice – perhaps a hybrid of in person and remote client meetings, court appearances, depositions, mediations, trials, etc. with more and more in person activities on the horizon.
From a risk management perspective, we at LMICK see this time as an opportunity for a little law practice spring cleaning. We recommend that you take stock of your clients, case load and case management practices and position your practice for some better days ahead. If you’ve been lucky enough to have had a busy, successful and profitable practice since March 2020, your practice management strategies can still benefit from a check-up. Below are a few tips and best practices to help you steer clear of claims in 2021 and beyond.
Happy New Year! The LMICK Board of Directors and staff wish you happiness, peace, success, prosperity, and good health as we embark upon another year. We appreciate having you as an insured and look forward to serving your professional liability insurance needs throughout the year.
With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, we were enjoying the process of brainstorming the many topics that we could raise and discuss in this first LMICK Minute of 2021. However, as we learned of the multiple lawyer suicides that have occurred since late December, it became abundantly clear what the focus of this LMICK Minute must be. First and foremost, we extend our condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those members of the bar that we’ve lost.
We often talk of attorney mental health and wellbeing as a legal malpractice risk factor. We will certainly speak in those terms again, but for the purposes of this communication, we simply want to convey our sorrow for the tragic loss of life, of fellow attorneys, of remarkable talent and of lost potential. Additionally, we want to make sure you are aware of the resources that are available to Kentucky attorneys who are struggling. Finally, we ask you to get trained to identify the behaviors of someone in need, to reach out to your attorney brethren and sistren and offer your care and concern.
2020 – what a ride! While the year is not yet over, it is hard not to start looking ahead to 2021 with hopes for an effective vaccine, the opportunity to see family and friends, and the freedom to resume our professional lives, including fully reopening our offices, going to court and meeting with clients and colleagues. The year has been difficult to be sure, but as a company we know that we have a lot for which to be thankful. That gratitude begins with you - our policyholders.
Here at LMICK, we have spent this past year pivoting, adapting and becoming stronger because of the hard work required in a challenging time. We have gotten creative and stepped outside of our comfort zones, - all with the best interests of our insureds in mind. Beyond that we’ve attempted to serve not only our legal communities, but also the communities across the Commonwealth in which our insureds live.
Do you remember back in March of this year thinking that we’d shut down our lives for 2 or 3 weeks and then get back to normal? Yet, here we are 7 months later and we find ourselves grappling with a new normal as the Covid-19 virus continues to sicken our family and friends, disrupt schools, impact law practices and other businesses, and stir anxiety for what the fall and winter will bring. We hope you, your family and your work colleagues are healthy and that you’ve adapted to this new normal, personally and professionally, as much as possible. Here at Lawyers Mutual, we remain committed to serving you and meeting your professional liability insurance needs.
As we push into the final quarter of the year and brace ourselves for what lies ahead, we wanted to raise a few issues with you for your consideration. Specifically, we want to ensure that you are aware of the following: 1) potential tax implications associated with the receipt of a PPP loan and out of state remote work; 2) best practices for those darn virtual meetings and presentations that seem to be here to stay; 3) changes the U.S. Postal Service has implemented around its signature services procedures; and 4) an important tool to better manage your clients’ expectation during a pandemic. Finally, we want to announce a free presentation to LMICK insureds coming in January of 2021 that you won’t want to miss.
On July, 23, 2020, the Kentucky Justice Association (KJA) is presenting the “Trial Lawyers Implicit Bias Zoom Program” featuring speaker Pastor Edward L. Palmer, Sr. The program runs from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and costs only $50.00, for all attendees (KJA members or non KJA members), for 3 hours of continuing legal education credit – a great bargain. Your registration fee will go to support one of two charities that you designate when you register. Detailed information about the program and a link to the registration page can be found below for your convenience.
We are proud to be the exclusive sponsor of this important presentation being offered at a critical time in our nation’s history. Like you, we’ve been watching what is going on in our country and around the world and wondering what this moment of social unrest demands of us – of LMICK – of lawyers.
First and foremost, we hope that you and your families are healthy and that you are managing well, personally and professionally, during the ongoing pandemic and social unrest. Please accept our sincere thanks and appreciation for your continued confidence in, and support of, Lawyers Mutual of Kentucky (“LMICK”). We are proud to have you as insureds.
In accordance with the Governor’s May 8, 2020 Order for phase 1 reopenings, including professional service offices (See Executive Order 2020-323), we began a phased reopening of LMICK’s offices on May 11, 2020. Since March 23rd, we’d been working mostly remotely with in-office activity only as absolutely necessary. Since May 11th, however, there has been LMICK staff in the office every day, but some remote work continues. Like you, we are working, homeschooling children, taking care of non-school age children without available daycares and trying to keep ourselves and our families healthy and well. Yet, we remain committed to serving your needs and moving back to a more normal work environment.
First and foremost, we hope you and your loved ones are well and that you’ve settled into a new normal that is sustaining you professionally and personally. The LMICK staff continues to work remotely, but we are responding to all of your needs from assisting with a new claim to processing a renewal application to arranging for electronic premium payments. There may be a slight delay in our ability to address your inquiries, so please be patient and follow up if you haven’t heard from us within 48 hours for electronic inquiries. It will take us longer to handle your communications sent via “snail” mail.
We have received a number of questions about whether statutes of limitation are extended and whether notarization can be done remotely during these most unusual of circumstances in which you are practicing law. The purpose of this communication is to provide you some information in that regard that may be useful to you in your practice.
These are uncertain and difficult times to be sure. Most importantly, we hope you and your loved ones are healthy. We anticipate that you are getting a handle on working remotely in what may be our new normal for the foreseeable future. Though risk management advice is not the purpose of this communication, we would be remiss if we did not take every opportunity to remind you of the importance of client communications during this time. Now more than ever it is critical that you have regular communications with your clients and manage their expectations about what you can and cannot do in the current climate. We surmise that a significant number of the bar complaints and/or claims against your coverage during this time will be the result of a failure of adequate communications. This is the time to be more resolute and diligent in client communications.
We are receiving a number of inquiries about what financial assistance may be available to lawyers and law practices as a result of the pandemic. We are not expert in interpreting all of the new legislation and regulations in that regard, but wanted to provide some guidance for your consideration. You should consult a financial professional for the specifics of what is available and whether you qualify. If, however, you are unable to work due the COVID-19 State of Emergency, please consider these options:
Effective Monday, March 23, 2020, Lawyers Mutual of Kentucky closed its office until such time as it is safe to resume in-office operations. We made the unprecedented and difficult decision to close the office not just to take care of ourselves, but to stay well in order to assist you with your professional liability insurance needs. LMICK’s core business functions are being handled remotely and we will do our best to provide whatever you may need in this most uncertain of times.
Nonetheless, and as you’ve undoubtedly experienced with your own efforts to practice remotely, there are challenges and limitations to navigate. To that end, we wanted to advise how best to reach us, explain the functions that may be slower than normal and provide some additional information that you should know about your coverage and premiums that may be coming due.