The law never stops, but the COVID pandemic threw more than a few wrenches into the workings of the legal system.
While law firms were among the sectors considered as an essential service and were allowed to continue operating during the initial phases of the pandemic, many of the familiar procedures and processes of the legal system were seriously disrupted.
“We’ve had to learn to do business and interact with clients differently,” said Thomas Campoli, senior partner at Campoli, Monteleone & Mozian, PC, a full service
law firm based in Pittsfield, with offices in Great Barrington and North Adams.
“We’ve continued to do our work, but at the beginning of the pandemic, we shut down all in-person meetings,” he said. “We were determined to operate safely. We’ve been meeting with clients and other parties over the phone or video conferencing instead.”
Campoli said that, despite the restrictions, they have been able to maintain their activities and productivity.
Campoli’s firm has five attorneys and a staff of 10.
“We’ve operated in a hybrid manner, with fewer people working in the office, and physical setups that allow for safety and distancing,” he said. “Some employees
worked remotely because they preferred to or had children at home. Others came into
the office. When we had staff meetings, we did it over Zoom.”
They also had to contend with changes in the courts and other public offices. For
the most part those remained open, but with more complicated processes for activities such as filing and picking up documents and submitting records.
Hearings and trials were limited and had to conform to protocols for safety and social distancing. Jury trials were suspended during the pandemic, which has caused a large backlog of cases.
Berkshire Superior Court recently began to phase in jury trials again on a gradual basis. The courts have also been looking for additional trial sites with more space and other conditions to allow for safety precautions.
Campoli said his f rm has recently begun offering in-person conferences and meetings again.
“It remains to be seen whether clients will want to come in yet, but we’re offering that as an option,” he said. “As more people become vaccinated, I believe they’ll be more comfortable coming into the office.”
He added that the firm does not plan on mandating vaccinations for its staff.
“Our position is that we’re strongly encouraging employees to become vaccinated, but it’s not a requirement,” he said.
Campoli said that, as they shift to normal operations, they will continue to use remote work methods to some degree.
“We’re looking forward to doing more in person again,” he said. “But we’ve learned how to become more effcient through this experience. There are ways we can continue to operate remotely in certain circumstances where it has advantages.”
He cited one example. “I have a deposition coming up where the witness is in New Jersey, and other participants are in eastern Massachusetts,” he said. “If we did that in person, it would have required traveling. Coordinating and scheduling that would have been difficult. But with teleconferencing, we can all participate from wherever we are.”