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Legal Ethics During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Resources from the Massachusetts BBO/OBC

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used in place of professional advice, treatment, or care in any way. Lawyers, law students, judges, and other legal professionals in Massachusetts can find more on scheduling a Free & Confidential appointment with a licensed clinician here.

The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers has published ethical guidance for lawyers during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers published new ethical guidance here, answering questions common among lawyers during the COVID-19 Crisis. For questions not answered in the article, the BBO/OBC Ethics Hotline is still operating Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays from 2p – 4p: (617) 728-8750. The article provides answers to the following questions:

  • I am working remotely at home. What should I do to ensure confidentiality?
  • I am working from home because I cannot access my office. I have a computer with limited technological resources. Do I have a duty to continue to work on my cases?
  • Should I notify my clients if I become ill with COVID-19? If I am not ill, should I prepare for the possibility of illness and being unable to serve my clients?
  • My colleague is a solo-practitioner and died from COVID-19. What resources are available to assist in closing the practice?
  • I worked for a law firm, I’ve been laid off, and I have cases and clients assigned to me. My employer expects me to handle these cases but says I won’t get paid for any work I do. What are my ethical duties?
  • I am a partner in a firm and the firm has decided to close, with different lawyers going in different direction. What are my ethical duties?
  • What are my financial obligations to my employees while my office is closed?
  • As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, I was unable to retrieve my files or check my mail before losing access to my office. What should I do?
  • I have cases with approaching court-imposed deadlines and cases where the statutes of limitations will soon expire. What should I do since the courts are closed except for emergency matters?
  • I have an upcoming deposition scheduled in one of my cases. What should I do?
  • I am not an estate planning lawyer but I have a client who wants a simple will done right away because of COVID-19, and I have other clients who are asking for advice on other matters outside of my practice area. I can’t find someone else to handle these matters. What can I do ethically?
  • I charge my clients an hourly fee and it seems to be taking longer than usual to get things done while working remotely. Can I bill for the additional time it is taking me to complete the work?
  • The partners in my firm are expecting me to bill the same hours as before the COVID-19 crisis hit and it is causing me a great deal of stress. What can I do?
  • I’m a lawyer and want to engage in work outside the practice of law. What are my ethical duties?
  • I’m dealing with other emergency issues such as domestic violence. The courts are closed, so what can I do?
  • I do landlord-tenant work. What are my ethical obligations with the courts being closed?
  • I need to confer with my client who is facing criminal charges and in custody. What do I do?

The BBO recently published more on ethical guidance on remote work and dealing with COVID-19 herewhich includes our resources on remote work during the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve centralized all our COVID-19 Resources here, which also includes guidance for coping and mental health, financial relief resources, and more.

Find FAQ from Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers here regarding their operations.

   Free & Confidential Consultations:

Lawyers, law students, and judges in Massachusetts can discuss how to work remotely and other law practice management concerns with a law practice advisor, and how to cope and other mental health concerns with a licensed therapist. Find more on scheduling here.

CATEGORIES: Ethics | Lawyer's Quality of Life | Risk Management
TAGS: covid-19

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