The COVID-19 pandemic has seen its share of industries impacted — some good, some bad and others still uncertain until the dust begins to settle, the legal industry among them.
In the courtroom is where COVID-19’s impact has been felt most. There are fewer cases overall, with hearings postponed, depositions canceled or rescheduled, and deadlines extended. “The closures of the courthouses has had the biggest effect on our operations. Unfortunately, anyone involved in the legal system during these times has been forced to wait,” said Travis Fleetwood when asked about the impact on their firm.
“The closures of the courthouses has had the biggest effect on our operations. Unfortunately, anyone involved in the legal system during these times has been forced to wait.”
The Supreme Court of Texas on Monday issued its 18th Emergency Order related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order amends existing provisions from the 17th Emergency Order issued May 26. Read the related article from the State Bar of Texas blog.
Navigating the New Normal
Navigating the new legal landscape in light of the pandemic will be challenging. It will primarily be determined by two things — court appearances and age.
Amid the cancelations, postponements and courthouse closures, essential cases are still being heard, although most are taking place remotely using video-conferencing technology. According to the Texas Supreme Court, essential hearings were defined as those deemed emergencies, time sensitive with deadlines that could not be suspended, cases with a liberty interest, or injunctions. All other proceedings not falling within those parameters were deemed non-essential. And there is no exhaustive list of essential vs. non-essential, so that adds to the complexity of the situation.
“Zoom mediation has become very popular and can be productive if both parties are willing to move on,” Travis said, but as our way of life largely moves online, older generations face a digital divide, as they are uncomfortable with technology and many are struggling to use modern tools to even keep up with friends and family in the pandemic — much less their legal affairs. According to Travis, this will even impact older attorneys, and he expects it to affect the reshaping of his industry.
Photo credit: Josh Olalde