Harrity 4 Charity Lends a Hand in Communities Across the Country During Pandemic

For the past 33 years, Manna Ministries, a weekly food share distribution agency in rural Alabaster, Alabama, has helped feed people in underserved communities in four counties—already making it the largest agency of Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham. But even so, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything.

“Since COVID,” says Executive Director Phyllis Harbin, “we have doubled the number of people we are serving since this time last year, now close to 300 households. And we are one of the only food shares that distributes weekly, not monthly.  People are carpooling here from inner city Birmingham with two, three, even four families in the vehicle because they can’t find enough food,” she notes about the drive-throughs on Saturday mornings.”

“People are losing their jobs,” she explains. “We’re now seeing all walks of life come through … many of them middle class folks. At least 25% have never needed to ask for help before.  People have no financial cushion and who would have ever thought something like this would happen?”

Reliant on donations of cash and food, all-volunteer Manna Ministries is able to feed someone for a month for about $5 … But COVID has made it far harder to meet the demand … And many people don’t realize that Food Stamps don’t even cover necessary paper products or hygiene items.

“Weekly,” Phyllis relates, “we give every family one box each of pantry items, produce and meat, as well as breads, sweets and dairy if we have it—about 50-60 pounds of food. And we provide baby formula/food. We don’t always have hygiene items, but we are trying during the pandemic to provide toilet paper, paper towels, laundry soap, feminine hygiene products, even pet food.  All of our volunteers look for donations, like asking our dentists to donate toothpaste and toothbrushes.  We’ll take any usable donation. Hand sanitizer is hard to find, but the Church Ladies have been making masks to hand out.  We just try to show kindness and love on them.”

Afraid that COVID isn’t going anywhere soon, donations like the one from Harrity 4 Charity’s COVID emergency fund are more important than ever.  “You betcha,” says Phyllis, a retired financial record keeper.  “The amount that Harrity gave us took us through three months of weekly food drive-throughs—You’re talking about feeding 1,500 families. And the public relations support provided by Harrity brought in three more sizable donations. We’re grateful.”

“We all do it not because we have to,” she shares, “but because we see a big need out there and have a love of people. We feel called to do His work. It’s a labor of love and we’re just glad that we’re able to assist.”

See Manna Ministries food distribution drive-thru on NBC’s WVTM-TV: https://www.wvtm13.com/article/local-ministry-hands-out-food-to-hundreds-in-alabaster/33357106

Images of Food Drive-Through

About Harrity 4 Charity

Harrity 4 Charity represents a partnering of law firm Harrity & Harrity, LLP, with charities that are near and dear to our hearts. Harrity pledges to give five percent of profits to partner charities and all Harrity employees pledge to donate a portion of their paychecks. Harrity & Harrity is a patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300 ™. Our clients have come to trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service. For more information, visit harrityllp.com.

Harrity Continues to Provide Hope Through COVID-19 Relief

In response to the Coronavirus crisis, Harrity 4 Charity—the giving-back initiative of Harrity & Harrity, LLP—has re-designated its priorities to assist people impacted by COVID-19 by creating a fund specifically focused on relief efforts. The fund is used to issue one grant or more per month to struggling restaurants across the country, who then provide thousands of dollars’ worth of redeemable meal vouchers to local food banks and community resource centers where they are distributed to families in need. The firm also selects individuals and families nominated for help by firm employees and associates and provides them with emergency financial relief to offset the virus’s impact, with plans to continue the program through the end of 2020.

“We all know people who are struggling tremendously,” says John Harrity, managing partner of Harrity & Harrity, “but when you hear the personal stories of what people are going through in every community in the country, it’s heart-wrenching. A freshly prepared meal is more than sustenance, it’s a very basic, down-home way to communicate that we care. And we are doing it in a way that also supports restaurant owners and staff whose businesses have been hit by this virus in those same communities.”

The first region to experience Harrity’s generosity was in their own backyard, in Fairfax County, Va, during the month of May. The firm has since expanded the program to offer the same help in other states, specifically in areas that are most vulnerable to economic devastation as a result of the pandemic.

Says Annie, a single grandmother raising her four grandsons, ages 14, 13, 11 and 2, “I never thought I’d have to go to a food bank ever in my life. I don’t like going, but for my grandsons I go, though not every week. If I don’t need it, I don’t go. I am grateful, but I don’t want to be greedy.”

Forced to accept a pay cut in 2017—when an injury sidelined her as an inspector for the housing authority and forced her to take a position as an administrative assistant—Annie has struggled to support her grandchildren and to put dinner on the table.  The COVID-19 pandemic created the added burden of assisting with home schooling the kids, three of whom have learning disabilities.

“In the state of Virginia, they won’t give me food stamps,” she shares. “They say I make too much money. Really, with four children? And there’s no stipend like there would be if they were in foster care. I take primary care of them financially and they are always outgrowing things. But I don’t regret having them. Yes, I get tired and frustrated … But not only did I save them, they saved me too.”

Annie says receiving the vouchers for a take-out family meal from Glory Days restaurant meant “a whole lot” to her.  “When I have extra money, I do take the boys. Monday is $6.99 burger specials. They are very good people and I want them to feel like they are just as important, not less than anyone else.

“It was a blessing and I’m thankful … Just one day I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to cook because I‘m rushing out at six o’clock in the morning and maybe forget to take something out for dinner. The food was delicious and the kids enjoyed it, which really made my day.”

“I was never the kind of person who had to ask for help,” she adds, “but with having the kids, it has really humbled me tremendously.  Things that were a big deal aren’t a big deal anymore.  Sometimes we go through things for a reason, but it’s okay … I don’t mind telling my story because it needs to be told.”

In another part of Virginia, Elsa, a stay-at-home mom, and Jose, a carpenter, are the parents of four sons, ages 10-19. Both Jose and their youngest boy contracted the coronavirus. Although they were thankfully asymptomatic, Jose was furloughed from his job as a carpenter, leaving his family without income. They felt very fortunate to be able to get food on the table through the Lorton Community Action Center and especially when they, too, were given the vouchers for a meal at Glory Days.

“Now that I’m home from work, I can see how exhausting it is for my mom to take care of my brothers,” shares their son, Erik, 19, an apprentice studying to be an electrician, but who is also currently on hiatus due to the pandemic. “We had not left the house in a week when we received the vouchers and we were running low on food.  We were just very thankful that we were able to eat and that Mom didn’t have to cook for us that day.”

For the month of June, the firm brought its COVID-19 relief program to the state of Alabama, where two food banks received grants to feed over 600 families. A new wave of recipients were selected for emergency financial relief and received checks. Some of their stories and more information about our initiatives can be found on our COVID-19 Relief Page.

 

About Harrity 4 Charity

Harrity 4 Charity represents a partnering of law firm Harrity & Harrity, LLP, with charities that are near and dear to our hearts. Harrity pledges to give five percent of profits to partner charities and all Harrity employees pledge to donate a portion of their paychecks. Harrity & Harrity is a patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300™. Our clients have come to trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service. For more information, visit harrityllp.com.

 

Fairfax Lawyer Helps Fund Restaurants During COVID-19

Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WASHINGTON, DC (June 15th, 2020) A Fairfax attorney is using his charity organization to help community members suffering from the financial impacts of COVID-19.

In 2016, John Harrity, managing partner of Harrity & Harrity, nearly died at 49 from a “widowmaker” — a heart attack resulting in the complete closure of the left anterior coronary artery that often results in instant death. Given a million-to-one odds of survival, Harrity decided to turn such a negative experience into something good.

Soon after, Harrity 4 Charity, or H4C, was born.

“I thought, if I just get through this process and eventually go back to work and just go back as if nothing happened, then I will have wasted this entire experience,” Harrity said.

In the four years since its founding, H4C has worked as a tangential organization of Harrity’s firm to donate 5% of its profits to multiple causes, including the American Heart Association and Zero – the End of Prostate Cancer.

“Every employee of my firm gives a portion of their paycheck to our partner charities,” Harrity said. “We wouldn’t hire someone that wouldn’t be willing to make that commitment. That’s how important it is for us.”

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, H4C, now independent from Harrity’s firm, has “redesigned” its priorities to create a fund for individuals that are struggling financially during these times. In the past few months, Harrity has used his organization to create grants for struggling local restaurants — including Glory Days Grill in Fairfax.

“We thought, OK, we’ve been giving to charities, and that’s good, but I think we need to pivot and help people who have been financially impacted,” Harrity said.

Therefore last month, Harrity teamed up with the Glory Days Grill owners to create a system in which the restaurant provided 157 meal vouchers to local food banks that could be brought to the restaurant and exchanged for a meal for a family of four.

“The [community] response has been overwhelming. People are so grateful that we are helping them,” said Sandra Maxey, controller for H4C.

One Fairfax resident that benefited from a meal voucher is Elsa. Last month, the youngest of her four sons tested positive for COVID-19. Because her family has to stay home for at least two weeks following his diagnosis, they were unable to work and struggled to afford groceries.

“The Glory Days Grill donation came to us at the best time where we could sit down as a family and enjoy a meal together,” Elsa said.

Harrity said he wanted to make a charitable contribution directly connected to his firm, as well. Therefore, he had his 55 employees compile a list of all the individuals they knew of that are struggling financially during this time.

The firm has since sent a first round of checks to those individuals to help alleviate financial stress, with a second round being sent in the upcoming weeks.

“Our intention with that is that we will continue to do it for as long as there’s an issue,” Harrity said.

Maxey said that the organization is currently in the process of creating an additional program to help feed first responders.

Harrity said he wants to help those outside of Virginia, as well. Therefore, with two employees working remotely in Alabama, H4C has begun giving to food banks there.

“We’re going to continue to do this through the end of the year,” Harrity said.

 

About Harrity 4 Charity

Harrity 4 Charity represents a partnering of law firm Harrity & Harrity, LLP, with charities that are near and dear to our hearts. Harrity pledges to give five percent of profits to partner charities and all Harrity employees pledge to donate a portion of their paychecks. Harrity & Harrity is a patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300™. Our clients have come to trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service. For more information, visit harrityllp.com.

Counsel Who Care: How Attys Are Helping During Virus Crisis

Law360 (April 7, 2020) — As coronavirus cases have spiked, law firms across the nation have been stepping up to help, from providing pro bono legal assistance to fundraisers and donations. Here, Law360 rounds up some of the latest charity efforts from the legal community in response to the pandemic.

 

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Donations, Funds Established By Firms

Virginia-based patent boutique Harrity & Harrity LLP has redirected its charity initiative, Harrity 4 Charity, to help those affected by the pandemic.

While the firm has not yet announced the recipients of the fund, it said in an announcement last week that the initiative will focus on helping families and individuals who have been laid off or lost their jobs and single parents or families struggling to provide for their children as a result of COVID-19.

“As a result of the current pandemic, we have decided to pause our contributions to our partner charities and instead get our Harrity 4 Charity dollars out into the communities to help people who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus,” managing partner John Harrity said in a statement.

The firm had been donating 5% of its profits to four charitable organizations: American Heart Association, Inova Children’s Hospital, ZERO — The End of Prostate Cancer, and No More Stolen Childhoods, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the public perception of childhood sexual abuse.

The law firm also plans to establish restaurant-run food banks to help businesses who are suffering from a lack of customers, while providing free meals to people who cannot afford them.

 

Read the full article on Law360 here.

 

About Harrity 4 Charity

Harrity 4 Charity represents a partnering of law firm Harrity & Harrity, LLP, with charities that are near and dear to our hearts. Harrity pledges to give five percent of profits to partner charities and all Harrity employees pledge to donate a portion of their paychecks. Harrity & Harrity is a patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300™. Our clients have come to trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service. For more information, visit harrityllp.com.

Concerns as Non-coronavirus Emergency Room Visits Fall Across DC Region

As the number of Coronavirus cases climb, there are new concerns that non-COVID19 medical emergencies are being ignored, not by doctors but by patients themselves.

 

 

“There is a large number of patients who have health emergencies and we’re concerned that those individuals may be avoiding medical care and trying to manage their symptoms at home when they’d be best served getting help at a hospital, and these conditions could worsen and be very harmful in the long term,” said Dr. Deborah Vinton, Emergency Medicine Director at the University of Virginia health system.

ER doctors across the DC region are seeing a drastic decrease in their non-coronavirus ER cases in the past month. At the University of Virginia health system, health officials have seen more than a 50% drop, and they believe it’s directly tied to the fact that people are so afraid they’ll get coronavirus that they’re ignoring their symptoms and not going into the ER, which could have dire consequences

“I’ve been in the house. My kids are in the house. My wife is in the house yes there’s a fear of going out, I just don’t want based on my underlying condition of heart disease to develop this….the front line is at those hospitals, and that’s the last place you want to go,” said John Harrity of Virginia.

Harrity is one of thousands of people across the DMV with underlying conditions who are doing everything they can to stay at home and not expose themselves to coronavirus.

But Harrity said he’s fearful. Four years ago in 2016 when he was 49 years old, Harrity was playing basketball when he had a major heart attack that almost took his life. And while he’s scared of stepping foot into a hospital right now in this world of Covid19, he says if he didn’t get the medical care he needed, and as quickly as he did, his outcome could have been a lot different.

“I had the worst heart attack you could have, it’s called the widow-maker. My friends acted very quickly, they called 9-1-1 and that’s the reason I’m here today,” said Harrity.

“If patients are experiencing symptoms that could be early appendicitis or chest pains related to heart problems we absolutely want them to come in and be assessed early, waiting on those type of symptoms can lead to catastrophic outcomes and be life threatening,” said Dr. Vinton.

“It is not a time for them to stay at home because what we fear is that people will stay at home have a stroke or a heart attack and then they become more disabled,” said Pat Lane, VP of Neuroscience with INOVA health system.

Doctors and health experts are urging everyone to look out for some key symptoms including:

  • Loss of Balance
  • Eye sight issues
  • Facial drooping
  • Tingling down your arm
  • Having trouble with your speech
  • Chest pain
  • Severe Abdominal pain/ inability to eat

Dr. Vinton and Pat Lane are reassuring patients that coming into the hospital is safe and that their hospitals are prepared to keep patients protected from Covid19.

“We can reassure them that we use a lot of protective equipment excellent, cleaning measures and we actually separate our population of patients based on the symptoms that they have so they don’t have to intermingle with those who’ve contracted coronavirus,” said Dr. Vinton.

Even though healthcare systems are stressed, you are urged to go to the ER if you have symptoms. Most hospitals are screening patients right outside the ER entrance.

 

In Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak, USPTO Extends Certain Patent Deadlines

By Ted Nissly, Associate

On Tuesday, March 31, 2020, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it has exercised its authority under section 12004 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to make 30-day extensions available to certain patent and trademark-related deadlines.  Prior to the enactment of the CARES Act, the USPTO did not have authority to extend deadlines because most patent and trademark-related deadlines are defined by statute.

Rather than take a uniform approach to extending deadlines for all filings and payments, such as other patent offices have taken across the world, the USPTO has focused on allowing extensions to only certain filings and payments.  Patent application extensions apply to, for example, responses to office actions, issue fee payments, and certain appeal filings that are due between March 27 and April 30, 2020.  Notably, the USPTO has excluded replies to pre-examination notices and maintenance fee payments to most applicants, unless an applicant is a small entity or micro entity.  The USPTO also granted extensions for certain filings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), including requests for rehearing of a PTAB decision.  Any qualifying filing or payment due between March 27 and April 30, 2020, will be extended 30 days from the initial date that it was due.

To qualify for an extension, a delayed filing or payment must be accompanied by a statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to a practitioner, applicant, patent owner, petitioner, third party requester, inventor, or other person associated with the filing or payment being personally affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including through office closures, cash flow interruptions, inaccessibility of files or other materials, travel delays, personal or family illness, or similar circumstances.

The USPTO has clarified, in a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section of its website that the statement that the delay was due to the COVID-19 outbreak should be a separate statement (e.g., not as part of a response to an Office action) but does not need to be verified or provided in an affidavit or declaration form.  However, the COVID-19 outbreak must materially interfere with a filing or payment to qualify as a delay due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The USPTO’s extension of deadlines under the CARES act is just the latest relief that the USPTO has granted due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Last month, the USPTO waived fees for reviving applications that became abandoned because of failure to meet a deadline for responding to an Office communication due to the COVID-19 outbreak and waived requirements for an original handwritten signature for certain correspondence with the Office of Enrollment and Discipline and certain payments by credit card.

As of the date of this posting, the USPTO’s extension of deadlines under the CARES act applies to deadlines through April 30, 2020, but the USPTO may extend the time window based on the continuing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The USPTO’s Notice of Waiver of Patent-Related Timing Deadlines under the CARES ACT can be found here.

The USPTO’s FAQs concerning the Extension of Deadlines under the CARES ACT can be found here.

 

Harrity Gives Back with COVID-19 Relief

WASHINGTON, DC (April 2, 2020) Harrity & Harrity, LLP, a boutique IP firm specializing in patent preparation and prosecution, is taking action to help those who have been affected by the severe outbreak of COVID-19.  While the firm says it is fortunate to be in an industry that is minimally impacted by the devastation of the virus, it recognizes all of those who have lost their jobs, shuttered their businesses, and/or are struggling to make ends meet during this period of uncertainty.

“Look, we are blessed to be in an industry where many, if not most, make six or seven figures.  Most lawyers will make it through this pandemic relatively unscathed,” said John Harrity, Managing Partner. “We are in an unprecedented time, with a virus that is spreading throughout the world at an exponential rate and the global economy being devastated.  This is a great opportunity for our legal industry to act.”

The government’s stimulus package is certainly a step in the right direction to help those that have been financially impacted by the coronavirus, but it is clear that more needs to be done.  Accordingly, John said his firm has made the decision to temporarily reallocate its giving back initiative, Harrity 4 Charity, to help those suffering from the many adverse effects of COVID-19.

“As a result of the current pandemic, we have decided to pause our contributions to our partner charities and instead get our Harrity 4 Charity dollars out into the communities to help people who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus,” stated John.

Currently, the firm commits 5% of its profits to four charity organizations.  Impressively, every one of the firm’s 53 employees also donates a portion of their paychecks to the Harrity 4 Charity non-profits.  While these charities are still incredibly important to the firm, the current economic climate calls for immediate attention.  Suggestions and nominations of where to donate the Harrity 4 Charity dollars have flooded in from the firm’s employees, many with heartfelt accounts of families that they know personally who are struggling to get by.

While Harrity & Harrity has not yet announced the recipients of the COVID-19 relief fund, the initiative will focus on helping families and individuals who have been laid off or lost their jobs, single parents or families struggling to provide for their children as a result of COVID-19, and those with underlying health conditions that prevent them from obtaining household essentials on their own.

The firm additionally plans on establishing restaurant-run food banks throughout the nation with the goal of helping businesses who are suffering from a lack of customers, while providing free meals to people who cannot afford them.  Harrity 4 Charity will purchase meals from local restaurants and donate the food to those in need.

John hopes these programs will not only aid those suffering from the effects of the outbreak, but inspire others, specifically in less impacted industries like the legal field, to act.

“If you are in the position to, please also consider donating to one of the many organizations currently supporting COVID-19 relief, or offering to help someone you know in need,” John urges.

 

About Harrity 4 Charity

Harrity 4 Charity represents a partnering of law firm Harrity & Harrity, LLP, with charities that are near and dear to our hearts. Harrity pledges to give five percent of profits to partner charities and all Harrity employees pledge to donate a portion of their paychecks. Harrity & Harrity is a patent preparation and prosecution firm specializing in the electrical and mechanical technology areas and is considered a Go-To Firm for the Patent 300™. Our clients have come to trust in our high-quality work, experienced people, industry leading innovation, and outstanding service. For more information, visit harrityllp.com.

 

COVID-19 Shifts Law Firms’ Hiring, Onboarding Process Online—To a Limit

Law.com (March 31, 2020) — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more law firms are heavily relying on technology and videoconferencing to hire and onboard attorneys and staff during the COVID-19 crisis. However, many wont be able to achieve 100% remote onboarding.

Recently, law firms said they’ve shifted any in-person interviews to video and phone chats. Likewise, once a lawyer or staffer is hired, their laptops and other equipment are shipped to them, and orientation and other new hire protocols are made on the phone or through video conference platforms.

Some in-person requirements have also been relaxed. On March 20, the Department of Homeland Security gave law firms and other employers some flexibility when it eased its in-person review requirement for I-9 documentation to verify an employee’s identity and employment authorization.

But there are still some barriers to going fully remote. Take, for example, getting a new partner’s book of business.

“Typically that lateral would get releases from their client [for] both physical and electronic files to the firm they’re leaving and joining,” said Fox Rothschild chief talent officer Jean Durling.

She noted that if the lawyer’s former firm doesn’t have remote access capabilities, accessing physical files could be a challenge. “It would be out of our hands; we can’t control what goes on in another firm.”

To be sure, moving to remote onboarding isn’t a huge change for some.

Boutique patent firm Harrity & Harrity, for instance, said it will replace its in-person final meeting before making a hiring decision with a video conference, said partner Paul Harrity. Still, that exception isn’t unique to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harrity noted that the firm previously onboarded a new staffer who was working remotely after the birth of a child.

Remote onboarding also doesn’t just extend to interviews and formal HR and IT communication needs. New hires need to build camaraderie with lawyers they’ve never personally met. To this end, law firms are looking to encourage more phone calls and video conferencing.

“Laterals that are in the [hiring] process with us we’ve already scheduled follow-up calls that would typically take place in an office to keep them engaged,” said Fox Rothschild’s Durling. She said the firm plans to schedule more frequent video and phone conference meetings held by department chairs for their practice members.

Eve Howard, regional managing partner of Hogan Lovells’ Washington, D.C., office, has seen a similar change. “Meeting people in person that’s always preferred, [but] now those meetings are happening through video technology. We call that internal profile raising, we are now doing that with Skype and other video conferencing.”

While fostering introductions and building networking opportunities between new lawyers must take place via phone conferences and video chats, they can be done in a “fun” way to maintain engagement, noted Crowell & Moring chief human resources officer Marguerite Eastwood.

She described a conference call two weeks ago where lawyers discussed their puppies and kids to foster lighthearted discussions and connections with colleagues who would usually work in an office together.

Written by Victoria Hudgins

 

Agile But Vulnerable, Smaller Firms Fight To Weather Virus

Law360 (March 27, 2020) — This summer, John Harrity, a name partner of patent boutique Harrity & Harrity LLP, planned to send an emergency drill text message to all his staffers requesting that they work remotely. It was supposed to be a simulation for what to do if a disaster struck. He planned not to give partners a heads-up that the text message was coming.

With many attorneys forced to work remotely because of the coronavirus outbreak, experts say small and midsize firms may be able to adapt to changes more readily than BigLaw. Above, a lone commuter crosses the street outside New York City’s Grand Central Terminal during the normally busy morning rush hour. (AP)

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, forcing him to recommend that most of his attorneys and staff start working remotely in mid-March.

When Harrity first spoke with Law360 on March 10, he felt the Virginia-based firm, which had already been liberally using video conferencing for internal communication, was relatively well prepared for the potential scenario of going fully remote. Five years ago, the firm had started offering more flexibility to attorneys, largely to appeal to potential recruits. The firm went cloud-based and paperless.

“The bigger firms are going to struggle during this time period way more because we’re already ready for this,” Harrity said.

Many midsize and smaller firms like Harrity & Harrity have had an edge over BigLaw when it comes to transitioning to remote work, whether because they had already started doing it or because their smaller size allowed them to be more nimble in putting together new response plans, according to experts. For many, however, the longer-term potential impact on business development is weighing heavily on smaller firms.

Harrity is steeling for the hit to the firm’s work if the larger economic dip results in fewer patent applications. Other firms focused on such hard-hit practice areas, including litigation and deals, are already feeling significant pressures, and some small firms have begun to slash staff in response, according to John Remsen of The Remsen Group, a law firm management consultancy that often works with smaller and midsize firms.

“It’s a very uncertain period,” said Remsen, who has been holding regular calls with midsize and small firm managing partners.

In these early stages of the pandemic, the focus for many midsize and small law firm leaders has been simply working to stay connected to clients and either testing or adding technology to prepare for their offices to go remote.

“From a business continuity standpoint, you can never take a wait-and-see approach,” Alan Tarter of midsize New York firm Tarter Krinsky & Drogin LLP said in early March.

Before New York City’s lockdown measures went into effect, Tarter’s firm had done a “full business continuity program” that included testing how phones, operations and administrative processes might work in the event the entire office had to work remotely.

“This way, if there are any gaps in our business continuity program, we can seal them now before we find ourselves in a crisis,”  Tarter said. “As a midsized firm, our clients rely on us to be their solution, not add to their problems. Likewise, our employees look to us to provide reassurances and support.”

Mike Arias of California litigation boutique Arias Sanguinetti Wang & Torrijos LLP, which also has offices in Las Vegas and Montreal, started limiting client face-to-face meetings several weeks ago and moving toward more virtual or phone connections to protect attorneys and staff from the coronavirus.

“There is an understanding that you’re dealing with a finite group of people, but not just the people in your office. You’re dealing with them and their families,” Arias said.

For many midsize and smaller firms, their size has meant fewer decision-makers in the mix and the ability to make policy changes and decisions quickly, according to Remsen. Smaller firms have often had the advantage of not needing to keep track of a patchwork of lockdown measures for offices across the country.

“If you’re a large firm with offices scattered in different cities, states, you have different scenarios in each one of those offices,” said James Cotterman, a principal at professional services consulting firm Altman Weil Inc.

A number of midsize and smaller firms — especially those that had already invested in connecting their workforce through technology — have been able to communicate well with lawyers and staff in these uncertain times. At many firms, managing partners and executive committee members are dividing up staff lists to check in one-on-one with people who are working remotely, according to Remsen.

The economic pressures and uncertainty that have come with the COVID-19 outbreak, however, are also putting many midsize and small-law leaders in a tough spot when it comes to staffing and financial decisions.

Many law firm leaders expect the pandemic to have a four-to-six-month immediate effect on their operations, which edges to where many could see significant bottom line issues, according to experts.

“There will be a lot of firms who don’t get through this,” Remsen said.

Part of the problem for many midsize and smaller firms is that they don’t have the cash stash that BigLaw does. Some firm partners are already passing on their draws as cash flow tightens, while others are using their credit lines to cover partner draws, Remsen said. Still others are starting to — or thinking about — making staffing cuts.

“Most firms seem to be taking a blended approach,” Remsen said.

So far, many firms are trying to hold onto staffers who have been loyal, according to Remsen. But he has also heard from one firm that cut its support staff by 75% in response to the pressures.

Remsen said he expects that more midsize and small firms will be forced to make cuts as well and that firms should use the situation as an opportunity to deal with chronic underperformers.

For many leaders of such firms, how they handle this crisis could mold their legacies, according to Remsen.

“It’s time for you as a managing partner to step up,” he said. “Your tenure will be largely dependent on how you handle this.”

Written by Natalie Rodriguez

Editing by Jill Coffey and Michael Watanabe

 

5 Tips for Attorneys Working from Home During the COVID-19 Crisis

Attorney at Law Magazine (March 18, 2020)– In a matter of days, COVID-19 has completely changed how we operate our day to day lives. For lawyers who have worked full-time in the office, the change to being fully remote may be challenging. I especially empathize with lawyers with small children, who are trying to adapt to a work from home arrangement, as well as care for their young children. I can imagine that it is not easy. I can say for the first time that I am thankful that my kids are teenagers. (Did I just say I was happy to have teenagers?!?) These are desperate times. With that being said, here are a few pointers that I hope will help you transition to a fully remote position, albeit, temporarily!

No. 1: Designate your space for working only.

Whether you have kids, are married, are single, whatever it may be, I recommend finding a place in your house/apartment/condo, if you have the space, that is designated as your office. When I first started working from home, I isolated myself in the basement. In fact, on my first day working remotely in my home, my husband saw me packing a bag of food, and he asked me incredulously “Where are you going?” “To my office, thank you.” It is important that you have a separate space as your office, so that you are not distracted by the domestic duties of the home. If a designated space is not possible, designate set work hours and stick to a schedule. If you have a family, designate a set work schedule and childcare schedule between you and your significant other. If you have kids and no significant other, you will have to be more creative. Remember, this arrangement is only temporary, and we will soon get back to normal.

No. 2: Set boundaries.

When I started working from home, my kids were 10, 12, and 14. It was in the summer, and my 12-year-old kept peeking in and wanting to tell me the latest, greatest thing. After the fifth interruption, I reminded him that I was at work and really to treat it like I was not at home when my door was shut. It was a beautiful summer day, and I had my window open for fresh air. My son went outside and dragged a chair by the window to talk to me. Failure! But a few days later, my son was used to the fact that I was home, and it was no longer novel. Eventually, with consistent reinforcement, my boundaries were respected and I was able to work uninterrupted.

No. 3: Get dressed.

By sticking to your normal morning routine, it will feel more like a regular workday. Shower, get dressed, have your coffee, and sit at a desk or table rather than the couch. This will help you maintain the mindset that you are at work, even though you are at home, and will aid your ability to focus on work-related tasks.

No. 4: Connect with your colleagues via video conference.

I can’t reiterate how important connecting with your colleagues via video is, especially during this time. At our firm, more than half of our employees work from home. When we need to speak to someone, we video call rather than calling on the phone. What a difference video makes. You will still feel connected with your colleagues despite the distance. If you are accustomed to an office setting, scheduling a daily or weekly call with your team or having a video lunch meeting will help things run smoothly, keep everyone on the same page, and make you feel less remote. I would encourage every company and law firm to have a video conferencing capability either through Teams, Zoom, Skype, whatever platform works for you.

No. 5: Read and implement “Fair Play,” by Eve Rodsky.

I can’t say enough about this book. Essentially, this book lays out some 100 household and childrearing tasks we do. The author, who is a lawyer and mediator, lays out a foundation on how to divide up tasks between partners. Typically, women will bear the brunt of the domestic tasks, and often, will ask their partners to execute a task without proper context.

Rodsky lays out a simple strategy. First, eliminate the tasks that don’t apply to you and your family. Second, divide up tasks, so the person who is responsible for the task is in charge of conception, planning, and execution of the task, or as Rodsky coins “CPEing” a task. Every week, you and your partner can meet to redistribute the cards if one person feels overwhelmed or is not suited for that particular task. My husband and I implemented this book a few weeks ago. He is still responsible for the morning routine (including breakfast), and he also took the laundry and dishes. He is very grateful to be absolved of cooking dinner, handling the finances, and grocery shopping. Please do read the entire book. There are a few important steps that need to be considered before you divide up the tasks; once you do, balancing family and home life with working remotely will become much less daunting.

These tips have been vital in acclimating to my work from home lifestyle. I hope they help you adjust to remote work and I wish everyone the best as they set up their new offices. I pray that you and your families stay safe and healthy during this uncertain time. This too shall pass.


 

Elaine Spector
AUTHOR

Elaine Spector

Elaine Spector is a Partner at Harrity & Harrity, LLP, a boutique firm specializing in intellectual property law. Her practice focuses primarily on the prosecution of patent applications, specifically within electromechanical technologies. Elaine is a driving force in the firm’s diversity and charity initiatives and serves on several committees and boards in relation, including AIPLA’s Women in IP Law’s Global Networking Event & Outreach Subcommittee, IPO’S Diversity & Inclusion Committee, and the non-profit No More Stolen Childhoods.

Responding to Coronavirus in the Workplace

As the coronavirus, or COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread across the nation, companies small and large are beginning to express concern over the potential effects the virus will have on business operations. Many communities have begun closing schools and public centers, postponing social events, and encouraging citizens to stay home. This inevitably is causing disruptions in the workforce as businesses decide what precautions to take and how to prepare for emergency responses in the event their own employees are diagnosed.

John Harrity, Managing Partner of IP boutique Harrity & Harrity, LLP, sat down for an interview for Law Practice Today, the webzine of the American Bar Association’s Law Practice Management Division, regarding how his firm is responding to the outbreak.

Q: What kind of relevant preparedness plans did the firm already have in place prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus?

A: We have previously thought about disaster recovery preparedness and what that would entail. In recent years, we have implemented an optional remote policy for all attorneys and allow in-office employees to work from home once a week. This allows us to ensure that everyone in the firm is equipped and fully able and accustomed to remote work. If the building closes, if there is an emergency incident, if there is a health concern, we are fully prepared to have both attorneys and staff telework.

Q: Has the firm implemented any policies yet regarding traveling or working from home?

A: In addition to the optional remote policy we already have in place, we have implemented further policies and recommendations in response to the outbreak. The first occurred within a few days of the virus reaching the US. We were monitoring the situation and released a memo to the firm that recommended not travelling via plane or attending a conference, if avoidable. If someone were to do either, they were instructed to not come into the office for the subsequent fourteen days to ensure no signs of symptoms- which typically arise within a two-week frame of contact with the virus. If someone were to show signs of symptoms, whether they traveled or not, they were also instructed to stay home. As the virus continued to spread, we distributed a second memo, in which we highly recommended that everyone work from home. The next step, if the virus continues to worsen in our area, would be a mandatory work from home policy.

Q: What steps have you taken (technological or otherwise) to make it easier for attorneys and other employees to work remotely, assuming that may eventually be necessary?

A: As mentioned, all of our employees are fully equipped to work from home with the same set-up we have in the office, including dual monitors and webcams. We are already paperless and cloud-based, allowing everyone to access necessary documents and systems whether or not they are in the office. With 60% of our firm already remote, we rely on video conferencing on a daily basis to conduct face-to-face meetings and utilize an instant messaging system for easy contact. Operationally, there is zero difference between how we were running two months ago to how we run today.

Q: What action will be taken if an employee is diagnosed with the coronavirus?

A: Currently, everyone is encouraged to work remotely to decrease the likelihood of the virus spreading if any employee were to be diagnosed. We additionally have an unlimited time off policy for attorneys and ample time off for staff, which can be utilized should they become sick. If sickness extends to a lengthy period of time, all employees have access to short term and long term disability through the firm, and fully paid medical benefits to receive proper treatment.

Q: What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenges for the firm in the days ahead as more people nationwide (and potentially at your firm) contract the virus?

A: Logistically, the spread of the coronavirus will have zero impact on our firm as a whole. If someone in the firm actually gets it, they of course would be impacted, but dependent upon the severity of their symptoms, are able to continue working remotely. However, there’s a possibility that, as companies require employees to work from home, schools close, and people become sick, there will be less innovation, which equals less filing. While we are prepared to continue operations as normal, our biggest anticipated challenge and what we have to prepare for is the impact from a workload standpoint. This may require attorneys to take some time off or become more involved in other aspects of the firm’s operations, such as business development, diversity initiatives, and charity until patent services pick back up.

Q: Have you announced any changes to HR/benefits policies to address potential scenarios that could arise, such as an employee becoming ill for an extended period of time or having to care for a family member?

A: Our benefits package, including medical care, ample PTO and disability, is already accommodating to a scenario like this. In addition to our remote policies, we allow employees to work flexible schedules, working whichever hours fit best within their personal schedule.

Q: What is your plan if numerous employees are unable to work due to having the coronavirus or caring for afflicted family members, or school closures?

A: With employees working from home and allowing them the flexibility to work whatever hours they need to, their production should not be affected. However, if they become sick, or need to prioritize the well-being of their family, they are welcome to utilize paid time off. From an attorney’s perspective, they have unlimited leave and can focus on the health of themselves and their families without repercussions. Staff starts at 23 paid days off, plus holidays, or can use disability if it comes to it.

Q: What are attorneys and staff expressing the most concern about?

A: With everyone already prepared and accustomed to working remotely, being aware of their benefits, and able to decide their own hours, we have not had anyone express concern about the virus.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share on this topic?

A: I just want to reiterate how beneficial our remote policy and flexibility have been during this scare. We have not had to worry about what our firm will do to keep things running, change our technology, train our employees on teleworking, or modify our operations, because we have already implemented all of these changes and were fully prepared.

Research shows that providing employees with flexible schedules and remote options is beneficial for morale, production, employee satisfaction, and business growth- all factors Harrity took into account when establishing these policies in recent years. A worldwide health crisis was not something on the radar while making these decisions but has proven to be a driving reason to support teleworking and flex hours in the current climate. By already having implemented these policies, Harrity employees were not only prepared, but generally unaffected by the firm’s recommendation to telework. While many other companies are dealing with the chaos of how to respond to the outbreak while keeping their operations running smoothly, it’s business as usual at Harrity. If possible, we encourage all businesses to implement a work-from-home policy in order to decrease the likelihood of the virus spreading and hope a resolution is near.

 

About John Harrity

John Harrity is the co-founder and managing partner of Harrity & Harrity, LLP, a boutique IP law firm focused on patent preparation and prosecution. John’s practice highlights his ample experience in the patent field, which includes client counseling, business management, and drafting and prosecuting hundreds of patent applications. In addition, John serves as the co-chair of the American Heart Association’s Lawyers Have Heart Race, one of the Washington, DC area’s largest philanthropic events.