With the coronavirus crisis continuing, many law firms are feeling financial strain, along with the businesses and families in the communities in which they operate. Still, rather than retreating, plenty of firms are reaching out to help. We checked in with law firms around the country to see how they are putting their legal skills, network, and funds to use to aid local communities impacted by the coronavirus crisis. Here’s what they had to say:
“In addition to our pro bono legal work investigating issues impacting consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe we have a duty to serve our surrounding community and are participating in widespread outreach efforts. We have pledged over $250,000 in initiatives ranging from partnering with local businesses that are making hand sanitizer and PPE for first responders; to our Computers to Kids program, which works with local courts to donate computers and Wi-Fi to children and families for distance learning and to get up-to-date information; to our #PerfectPair initiative pairing local restaurants with local organizations to feed people in need; to challenging other law firms on Twitter to join us in buying large amounts of gift cards to local restaurants.” –Jay Edelson, CEO and co-founder of Edelson PC (Chicago, IL)
“Immigrants are a vulnerable population at a time of economic uncertainty, especially those without lawful status. The pervasive unauthorized practice of immigration law by certain notaries and paralegals is a major hindrance to obtaining full legal rights for these people. To better inform our communities, we are holding daily or twice daily social media Q&As live in Portuguese and Spanish. Many people also are confused about eligibility for government financial relief, and in light of the public charge directive, it is imperative that immigrants understand, particularly those in financial distress, how to proceed. We also are offering low-cost representation to individuals stranded in the USA as a result of flight cancellations who now must obtain an extension of their nonimmigrant visas in order to comply with rapidly approaching expiration dates.” – Renata Castro, founding attorney of Castro Legal Group (Pompano Beach, FL)
“We’re offering free powers of attorney to folks who feel unsafe going out. If you or someone you know is concerned about going out, but still needs to do banking or other activities that require a personal signature, a power of attorney held by someone who can do the errand for them might be the answer. We are doing the documents so they are valid for 30 days, and will renew them for free as needed, so you are not signing your life away.” –Edward Hanratty, The Law Office of Edward Hanratty (Freehold, NJ)
“Most law firms are too busy to think about pro bono. We made that mistake in the past. I’ve taken time during this slowdown, to think about what I can do. I got into the practice of law to help people. How can we help, with so much chaos? We help people get peace of mind. Who are the people that need the most help? In light of the pandemic, it’s nurses, first responders, and, as always, teachers. Our firm is offering to do Texas basic estate planning documents at no cost. These documents include a basic will, medical power of attorney, and durable power of attorney. With the assistance of these documents people can have peace of mind.” –Shann Chaudhry, principal attorney and managing partner of Shann Chaudhry, Esq., Attorney at Law, PLLC (San Antonio, TX)
“We are setting up a process to provide free basic documents for those who are still working with the public at this time, such as grocery store and healthcare workers who need a simple power of attorney or advanced healthcare directive. We have gone live on social media to offer help and answer questions.” –Travis Christiansen, owner and attorney with Boyack Christiansen Legal Solutions (St. George, UT)
“VanDerGinst Law is a personal injury law firm in Illinois and Iowa which has enacted two interesting community campaigns to help people cope with the COVID-19 crisis. First, the firm purchased $10,000 worth of gift cards from locally-owned restaurants that had to shut down their on-site dining. They then delivered those gift cards to families whose children were missing nourishment from their school lunch program due to closures.
The second initiative (Masks of Love) helps people who were laid off during this crisis, while also helping those who need protective face masks. The firm is paying for the materials and the manpower to make “Moo Masks,” which will be distributed to healthcare and other essential workers who have not otherwise been provided this protection.” –Dennis VanDerGinst, president and CEO of VanDerGinst Law, P.C. (Moline, IL)
“We’re helping independent healthcare practices understand how telehealth services fit within their specific practice acts and ethical requirements. As the government responds to the crisis by relaxing some of the previous requirements around online privacy, prescribing, and reimbursement, we’re finding that many providers are missing the nuances. They’re thinking, “Anything goes!” and assuming that all of the constraints have been suspended.
Our attorneys provide guidance—as well as the proper intake and consent forms—to help clients transition to virtual visits and avoid undue risk, liability, and negative scrutiny in the future. We want to help them establish a compliant telehealth program that will support the practice and provide good patient care in the long run, even after the pandemic ends.” –Erin Jackson, healthcare attorney and managing partner of Jackson LLP (Chicago, IL)