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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that forced much of the world into a stand-still, many law firms posted double-digit gains in revenue and profits per equity partner. A common factor in these law firms not just surviving but thriving included a strategic plan and commitment to a culture of high-performance, according to a study by a law firm consulting group.

 

Strategic Plans

 

According to a Law.com article, the law firm consulting company Zeughauser Group (“ZG”) notes that there are traits that are commonly shared by outperforming law firms. In regards to strategic planning, these are generally an reasonably attainable yet aspirational vision of what the law firm partners want to build together. The plan also includes clear priorities for the firm’s partners as well as goals for achieving them. According to ZG, successful firms have a clear understanding of their current market position as well as a clear understanding of the market position they want to achieve.

 

Not surprisingly, a majority of law firms have to build a consensus — obtaining input from the firm’s informal and formal leaders as well as respond to their concerns — while developing their strategic plan. If law firms share data indicating where the business stands, the benefits of market leadership in particular areas of focus, and other aspects will help the firm succeed.

 

Compensating High Performers

 

ZG further learned from its analysis that law firms that outperform others in their market often prioritize the interests of their high-performing partners. This often includes law firms ensuring that top contributors are compensation in a manner that at a minimum remains competitive with the market. ZG further noted that some law firms took the economic unknown regarding COVID-19 to reallocate funds as well as compensating high performers. The continued uncertainty has provided other law firms the opportunity to do the same.

 

Moreover, outperforming law firms both set and communicate clear expectations for what is required to become and stay a partner, according to the article. These expectations are several including producing, originating cases, managing teams across practices, managing teams across offices, and obtaining client-pleasing results. Moreover, outperforming law firms encourage those who do not measure up to those expectations to find other positions inside or out of the firm.

 

Other Traits

 

Other characteristics of law firms that are outperforming their counterparts in the legal field includes firms that have a deep and thorough knowledge of the firm’s markets. They also have a clear and focused understanding of the competitions. Most important, these firms are able to recognize and embrace market shifts as well as prioritize where they focus on excellence.

 

As a result, many lawyers at Biglaw are not concerned about their job security (while many Americans are) due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, many lawyers are collecting large bonuses because these firms have excelled financially in 2020 and are projected to continue to do so in 2021. This success and stability can be attributable to many factors including an attorney’s ability to work from home easily, having business revenue from a diverse range of industries, focusing on varied practice areas, and a significant reduction in travel expenses. According to a Wells Fargo Survey reported by the Wall Street Journal (“WSJ”), of the 125 firms surveyed their revenue increased an average of 6.4 percent in the first half of 2020 when compared to the prior year despite demand being roughly the same. Net income rose 25.6% in 2020 when compared to 2019.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to infect people across our nation and our governments try to stop the spread, the legal profession keeps getting pushed into uncharted waters. One legal issue that still remains unclear is how service of process will be affected not just for those trying to serve others, but those parties who are being served with lawsuits.

 

Below are some useful tips on how to serve, and how to be served, legal documents during these uncertain times in the midst of the pandemic.

 

For those concerned about serving others:

 

In order to make sure that legal papers are properly and timely served on defendants:

 

  • Check all standing orders, temporary rules, or other guidance from the jurisdiction where service is to take place as new orders are issued almost daily;
  • Monitor the websites and public postings of defendants to be served to have up-to-date information about where service is being accepted since most businesses have had to adjust and service locations may have changed;
  • Ensure that your process server does not leave the legal documents outside of physical offices or with unauthorized personnel as service would not be proper;
  • Be flexible with the defendant to be served when it comes to agreeing to serve via alternate methods that are accepted under the state and federal rules.

For those concerned about receipt of service:

In order to make sure that a defendant is not refusing service in a way that would trigger another service method that could result in lost legal documents:

  • Use a service to act as your registered agent, if you have not done so already, as now is a good time to benefit from these services;
  • Review and confirm that the list of statutory agents registered in each state is up-to-date;
  • Contact your registered agent to make sure there is a process in place to accept service on your behalf—especially in light of all the court orders on the issue;
  • If you cannot accept service at any physical location where a process server may attempt service, post a notice on the door with detailed information, post a list of office that are closed due to coronavirus and cannot accept service on the internet, establish a procedure for routing and reviewing legal documents is service is made on someone at one of those addresses.
  • Make sure there is a procedure for reviewing and routing all mail received by the legal department and its staff, so you do not miss any papers served by FedEx or certified mail.
  • Continue to monitor new court filings to catch lawsuits where plaintiffs argue that service was perfected but the legal documents were lost or misdirected.
  • When possible and desirable, reach out to the plaintiff and offer to waive or accept service via an alternative method.

If parties implement the above tips, the legal process will continue to run as smoothly as possible, considering we are in the midst of a global pandemic.