This article was originally published by Idaho Business Review on March 25, 2020
As the noise grew louder of the coronavirus spread we evaluated our response beginning the first week of March. Initially, we focused on recent travels as well as future planned travel – both personal and work-related. I “coached” several people out of their upcoming travel. Shortly thereafter cancellations nationwide began to unfold and travel became an obvious “no.”
Our law firm has five offices and 170 people. Our primary headcount is in our Boise location. In addition to attorneys, our team consists of support staff, a professional management group, as well as 13 paralegals. Attorneys and managers have been accustomed to working securely from home for quite some time. Since converting to the cloud in 2016, remote working has been highly accessible and easy to accommodate. We have access to every document and program we have access to in our offices.
As the media reports began to pour in with respect to major metropolitan areas already heavily impacted by COVID-19, our leadership and management teams began to prepare for the likely plan of employees – not just attorneys – working from home. Early in the second week of March, we created a complete inventory of everyone’s at home internet and PC capabilities. Our IT Manager made necessary preparations in case some of our people did not have a PC, laptop or internet at home.
By end of the second week of March, there were no reports of COVID-19 cases in Idaho until that very evening at 5:00 p.m. The firm’s Board of Partners and I held a conference call on Saturday afternoon to discuss the potential impact. We made the decision on Saturday to move all high-risk employees to an at-home work status effective Sunday – prior to the new work week beginning. We further identified a list of non-essential workers that we could keep at home for the first part of the week on paid leave until a further assessment could be made. Additionally, we surveyed attorneys for projected workloads in order to assess how many could be moved to a work-from-home status. We also identified personnel who had a current “easy to put off” workload to stay home for the time being.
The firm’s management team (5) worked together to contact the 20 employees who had been identified as work-from-home or just stay-at-home status. Laptops were deployed to those who did not have home computers as well as portable hotspots for connectivity for those who did not have internet. Fourteen employees who had never worked from home before were set up for work-from-home status as of Sunday evening. We sent out a firm-wide communication Sunday evening so everyone would be aware of our strategy to keep client service available while keeping our people safe. We circulated everyone’s cell phone numbers to ease the ability to get in touch with one another, regardless of where one was working.
By Wednesday, March 18, we had moved our entire firm to a work-from-home status while maintaining a very minimal crew on site to tend to the important items that might impact client service. The onsite crew was intentionally distanced from each other.
Our rapid deployment of technology and our firm’s ability to provide access to our secure cloud environment to all workers enabled us to maintain constant connectivity with our clients as well as provide a safe environment for our people. Our leadership team and our management team remain optimistic and are energized by our firm’s people and their resilience and spirit.
Susan Olson is COO/CFO at Hawley Troxell in Boise. As the COO/CFO, Susan provides leadership on firm finances, operations, growth and business initiatives. She joined the firm in 2001 after spending time in the health care and finance industries.
It is Susan’s duty to ensure the firm meets its financial goals and objectives and has the proper operational controls and people systems in place to achieve the firm’s business objective – exceptional client service. Susan provides constant attention to the improvement of the organization to ensure financial strength and operating efficiencies of the business of law. Susan is a Certified Legal Manager.