I hope this finds you safe and well.
Because we serve older populations, we are especially concerned about protecting our clients, friends and ourselves from coronavirus exposure and the risk of contracting COVID-19. We want to do all we reasonably can to protect you and ourselves, while continuing to be available to meet the needs of our current and future clients. If what we’re doing seems unnecessary to some of you who read this, we sincerely hope that it turns out that way. But given the high level of uncertainty with things changing constantly, we think it’s our responsibility to take a “better safe than sorry” approach.
Accordingly, we have instituted several measures directed toward limiting physical interactions between us and current and prospective clients and family members who are assisting them with their planning, and toward being safe when such physical interactions are necessary and possible.
A large part of this involves using available technologies that can significantly limit the need for in-person interactions. We’re already all familiar with two technologies that are very helpful in that regard: cell phones and email. Those will certainly help a great deal. What’s more, we can enhance their effectiveness, and utilize some other technologies I’ll describe below.
We have a video meeting software program called Zoom which will enable us to meet with you by video conference, using any device equipped with a webcam and a microphone, such as a PC, laptop, notebook, or even your cell phone. Zoom has the capability of including numerous people in a meeting, and anyone in the meeting can put documents up on screen for other meeting participants to see Think of it kind of like “FaceTime” or “Skype” except with much greater capabilities. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with it. It’s surprisingly easy, and we’ll walk you through it.
Based on recent changes in laws, Zoom meetings can even be used for document signing. We can send you the original documents to review, cover any changes that might be needed with you by email or phone, and send you revised documents if and as needed. Then we would Zoom to meet with you for the signing, which we can, during the coronavirus outbreak, notarize and witness from remote locations. The Notary and witnesses (as appropriate to each document) will sign on separate pages, and we will mail those to you to put with the documents you signed.
In the case of “in-person” meetings, we want to do all we can to reasonably limit their frequency and duration, and we must adhere to “social distancing” standards. Because our Edwardsville, IL and St. Louis, MO offices are satellite offices, we don’t have enough space to meet with people in those offices consistent with “social distancing” standards. For that reason, unfortunately, for as long as those are in place, we can only handle in-person meetings at our O’Fallon, IL office.
If we need to meet in person, we will need to be safe about it. We will ask that only the person or persons who will be signing documents come into the office, while others wait in their cars. We will seat you at a table that has been wiped down with a disinfectant wipe, on which the documents you will need to sign and a disinfected pen to sign them with (or you can bring yours) will have been placed. We will direct and witness the signing from a safe distance. And, of course, we will adhere to other cleanliness and sanitary standards.
In the case of phone calls (and Zoom video meetings), with a little advance planning we can easily arrange it so that more than two people can participate, even if we’re all at separate locations. We’re able to coordinate that here. You’ll just need to let us know (or we’ll let you know) who all should be on a particular call or Zoom meeting.
In the case of your getting documents to us that include information we need to access or review in handling your legal matter, several options are available.
First, as my tech-savvy son let me know, almost everyone who has a cell phone now has the ability to scan in documents and transmit them to us electronically. There is a free app available through Apple’s App Store and Google Play (where you download apps for other types of phones) called Genius Scan. Basically, you just point your phone at whatever you want to scan, take a picture of it with your phone, then it’s ready to transmit. Of course, if you or a family member has a scanner, that’s even better. For those of you who will be downloading and using the Genius Scan app, here’s a link to a helpful video tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zLP2iOPmMk&feature=youtu.be.
Second, any new client and any existing client who doesn’t already have one can get set up with a secure “client portal” through our practice management software, Practice Panther. You can use your client portal to securely transmit documents to us electronically, to avoid security risks often found in platforms like email. Incidentally, you can also use it to securely make payments to us, not only by credit card but also by electronic check.
Third, if you’re willing to accept the risk of putting important documents in the mail (or with a courier), you could mail them, or FedEx or UPS them, to us. If you use regular mail, we’ll need to allow a little extra time for that.
Finally, for those who can’t avail themselves of other alternatives for transmitting documents to us, and need to drop them off at the office (unfortunately, due to travel restrictions, that would also be limited to our O’Fallon, IL office), we want to be safe as to that, keeping in mind that germs can be transmitted through contact with documents as well as with people. The first thing we would ask is that you bind the documents without the use of plastic materials. We will also provide supplies to keep your documents together. We will want you to just drop them off, and not to meet with a staff member to go through them when you do that. We have a box for dropping off documents in an interior vestibule right outside the door, and you can just ring the doorbell to let us know you are dropping off documents.
If you have any alternative suggestions for how to “make it work smoothly, but also make it safe,” we will welcome them. Like everyone else, we’re doing our best to try to figure out how to make things work.