Addressing Client Concerns During the COVID-19 Outbreak
The Paralegals' Perspective
by Allison Finarelli, Paralegal to Kimberly W. Bryan.
Many, if not most, aspects of our personal and professional lives have been drastically changed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Although the “physical” offices of Parker Bryan Family Law in Downtown Raleigh are temporarily closed to clients, one thing that has not changed for me, and for the other paralegals in our firm, is our dedication to our clients and their cases. Whether we are working in the main offices, or from the offices in our homes, we have all been working diligently together to figure out creative ways to keep in contact with our clients and continue to tend to their cases in a prompt and professional manner. Even though the outbreak has forced the court system to continue many civil cases, including domestic cases, until at least the middle of April; and even though Governor Cooper’s recent “Stay At Home” Order has necessarily restricted how people live their daily lives, we all know that none of these restrictions have changed the fact that our clients’ cases are still extremely important to them and have not simply “abated” because of the pandemic.
Over the last two weeks, Amber, Chloe, Lori and I have all been working collaboratively to figure out the best ways to stay in touch with each other in order to continue to assist the attorneys we work with and address the valuable concerns of our clients. We have all adjusted our working hours. We have relied more on email communications between each other, our clients, the attorneys who work in our law firm, the attorneys and paralegals in other firms, and the people who work in the courthouse, in order to schedule hearings and custody mediation sessions (which are now being handled through the Custody Mediation Offices via teleconference!).
The once daily trips to the Post Office to check our firm’s post office box have become a group effort. Whoever retrieves the mail, returns to their home office, scans it and emails it to the applicable paralegal and/or attorney for processing and review. The once daily trips to the Wake County Courthouse have necessarily been modified due to the constantly changing courthouse accessibility rules. Since the Clerk’s Office and the Family Court Offices are now only open weekdays from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, we have been asked to leave our documents for filing in a drop-box in the lobby of the Courthouse so that they can be processed by the Clerk’s Office in order to reduce contact with courthouse personnel. Once the Clerk’s Office has completed its job, its staff places the filed documents in our firm’s courthouse box for retrieval. Once again, the paralegal who retrieves the documents then returns home, scans them and sends them out to the proper paralegal and/or attorney.
We have also coordinated abbreviated trips into the office (no more than 2 hours) to gather supplies for each other and tend to other matters that cannot be dealt with from our home offices. In fact, on several occasions, I have offered “curbside” notary services, which has involved waiting at the curb in front of our offices on Fayetteville Street in rubber gloves holding a clean pen and a clipboard with the document to be notarized while maintaining a safe social distance. Once the client has pulled up to the curb, I have administered the notarial oath through the passenger window, passed the clipboard to the client and watched him/her sign it. If anything, this crisis has shown all of us that, in addition to being great friends, we are also a dedicated team that works very well together!
Finally, it is important to all of us that our clients know that we continue to work hard on their cases every day! Even though this pandemic has forced us to work remotely and alter how we do what we do, we are constantly adapting to make sure our clients’ needs are addressed as promptly as possible and that the law firm continues to run as smoothly as possible. Our clients always have been, and will always be, our top priority – no matter the circumstances!