Over the last six weeks or so we have all been challenged to work from home and find new and creative ways to still accomplish what our jobs have required, while possibly taking on some new tasks. As we reopened on May 1 pursuant to the Governor’s plan, we can look back and see how the challenges we have faced have resulted in us now being comfortable with more tools to serve our clients.
Let us provide a few examples:
- Prior to the pandemic, we normally met with clients in person or by phone. We were familiar with Zoom or other like applications, but our clients were not generally adept at using them, so we were limited. Now, more and more of our clients have used Zoom and other tools like this which enable us to talk through the language of documents while sharing them on our computer screens. Prior to the use of this tool, each party might have a copy of a document, but each was uncertain about the page or clause that was being referenced with a question or explanation. Zoom permits us to look at the same page at the same time when explaining documents.
- In addition, when we collectively determine that a change needs to be made in a document, we can often make the revision during the call and both watch the document be updated.
- In 2018 the Texas legislature passed a series of statutes permitting virtual notaries to be used for certain transactions. Otherwise our clients had to come into our office or find a local notary to attest to most documents. The Governor signed an order during this pandemic which permits a notary with a two-way video and audio device to notarize most documents. The simple process is that the notary and the person are connected by the two-way video device (phone, tablet or computer), the notary affirms who the person signing is as if they were in front of them, the person signs the document while the notary watches, the person emails the document to the notary who completes the notary section and then emails the notarized page back to the person. With those few steps a document can be notarized. This makes it much easier to sign amendments to trusts, powers of attorney, deeds, and similar notarized documents without having to find a notary or come into our offices. As this order accelerates the signing process, it is likely to encourage expansion of the breadth of the 2018 statute to allow virtual notarization even when the Governor’s order expires.
While we thought we were well connected before, the pandemic has caused all of us to become better connected from anywhere. As a result, we can assist more of our clients wherever they are. We are now back in the office and are more ready and able to serve you than ever before.
We want to assure you we are taking significant steps to make sure our offices are clean and sanitized should you choose to come into one of our offices for a meeting. Here are a few of our newly adopted guidelines:
- Everyone is required to wash their hands thoroughly as they arrive in our offices.
- All touch points such as door handles, copy machines, coffee makers, faucet handles, etc. are sanitized multiple times each day.
- Anyone who is sick or does not feel perfectly well is encouraged to work from home.
- We all wear masks when arriving to work and walking through the office.
- Since we have a significant number of our staff who continue to work from home, we can maintain social distancing in our office. When we have more people in the office where that is more difficult, guidelines are in place for each person to wear a mask while moving around the office.
- Doors between the outer and inner office remain open to minimize a touch point, as are doors in and out of conference rooms unless requested to be closed by a client.
- Delivery people are asked to knock and leave deliveries outside of the office for one of our staff to bring in and unpack using gloves.
- Our staff has received copies of the CDC guidelines as well as the Governor’s Re-Open plan guidelines for businesses and we have discussed those thoroughly.
- As each person arrives for work, they have their temperature taken with a touchless thermometer. Any of our staff who registers 99 or above will be asked to work from home.
In addition, when clients come into our offices, we request their cooperation with the following procedures:
- We ask that all clients wash their hands thoroughly upon arriving at our office.
- We will ask each client to take their own temperature using our touchless thermometer and, if their temperature is over 99 degrees, we will ask to reschedule the appointment or move to a virtual meeting or conference call at a different time.
- Our clients will be immediately seated in a conference room and take a position as far away from the door as possible.
- Attorneys and paralegals who meet with the clients will sit close to the door to maintain spacing.
- Masks for clients are available upon request.
We want you to know that the health of our clients, our staff and their families are of utmost importance to us. So, as we continue to serve your legal needs in new and more creative ways, we want to do it in a manner that does not put any of us at risk.