I hope this finds you safe and well, and that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is now behind us.
Because we serve older populations, we are especially concerned about protecting our clients, friends and ourselves from the risk of contracting and COVID-19. We want to do all we reasonably can to be safe, while continuing to be available to meet the needs of our current and future clients, and without imposing undue burdens. We want our approach to remain flexible, consistent with a changing situation and updated guidance that reflects new developments.
One important development is that all members of our staff are now “fully vaccinated,” including the booster shot for those eligible for it. We believe that is also by now the case with many of our clients and family members who come to our offices. Accordingly, effective May 17, 2021, if upon coming to our offices, you voluntarily inform us (HIPAA regulations preclude us from requiring disclosure of medical information) that you and each other person who would attend a meeting with you have been fully vaccinated, and that you would prefer not to wear a mask during a meeting with us, we will honor that request. Otherwise, we will, at least for now, continue to require masks, and will happily provide one if you or anyone in your group doesn’t have one along.
Meanwhile, we will continue to utilize available technologies that can significantly limit the need for in-person interactions. Two familiar 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 by utilizing the technologies I’ll describe below.
We will be happy to meet with you by Zoom video conference, if you have access to 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. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with Zoom. It’s surprisingly easy, and we’ll walk you through it if you’re a “newbie.”
In the case of in-person meetings, we will try to reasonably limit their frequency and duration, and adhere as much as reasonably possible to “social distancing” standards. That applies particularly to document signings. Our documents are now set up so that the client signs on one page and the notary and/or witnesses sign on separate pages, so that documents don’t need to be passed back and forth for signing. As it turns out, that also saves time.
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 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.
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, if you choose to drop off documents and prefer “contactless delivery,” we have a drop-off box in the entry foyer, right outside the door, and you can just set documents there and ring the doorbell to let us know that you have done so.
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 best to deal with the challenges COVID-19 has imposed on all of us.