Prior to the world hearing the terms “the Coronavirus,” or “COVID-19,” the attorneys and staff at Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake (“SZL”) were already preparing for a paperless office and virtual practice of law, where appointments and even court appearances could be conducted electronically, and all client files accesses through the attorneys’ laptops and iPads. In fact, this extremely innovative “out-of-the-box” thinking was not because the attorneys and staff foretold the future or prognosticated a pandemic. It was because part of the firm’s mission was to not just to give their clients superior representation while providing the highest level of exceptional client/customer service, but to enact measures to make our community and world a better place. In enacting those measures, SZL was able to seamlessly shift to the virtual practice of law when America was called upon to quarantine. That seamless shift is the reason why SZL was asked by other law firms and even bar associations to serve as mentors to other attorneys and firms to help them make the transition to the virtual practice of law when other lawyers all but shut down because of the pandemic.
About ten years ago, SZL Founder and Co-Managing Partner, Jason Shapiro, went to an event at the Washington, DC, Convention Center called “The Green Festival,” and it featured some of the latest inventions in ecologically friendly technology. The festival featured prominent speakers on this subject but mostly served as a platform for those promoting their “green” inventions. The following year, when the Green Festival returned to Washington, DC, Jason purchased tickets for SZL employees and their families that wished to attend this festival. Jason’s thinking was that if SZL could lessen its “carbon footprint” as SZL carried out its mission, the firm would not just serve our clients, but would better serve the community, the world, and its inhabitants. Jason was hoping that the festival would serve as a catalyst to brainstorm with his staff.
It was at that time that SZL started to make some minor changes. SZL’s office condo was switched from regular BG&E power to “wind power”; Single-use plastic bottles containing filtered or spring water that had been offered to our clients that came to our office were discontinued in favor of reusable SZL bottles and mugs, and eco-friendly hand-dryers were installed, and the paper towel dispensers were removed, are just a few examples of the minor changes made. However, Jason asked his then-Junior Partner and now-Co-Managing Partner, David Zwanetz, to figure out “how to go paperless.” Since “going paperless” was the most intensive task, SZL wanted to make sure that they got everything right. And frankly, although progress was made, and SZL may have “gotten things right,” but they did not get things perfect.
But David was not daunted in making SZL the most efficient and effective paperless law firm. He requested the assistance of SZL’s highly regarded paralegals to help sift through many different software and telecommunications options. Ultimately as a result of a team effort, SZL was able to enact measures to carry out Jason’s vision to be the “greenest” law firm possible. A few winters ago when a snowstorm shut down Maryland for a day or two, SZL was able to beta test all of the systems that David and his team implemented. When the snowy weather prevented other firms from answering incoming calls from their clients or prevented other attorneys from accessing their clients’ physical files, each and every call to SZL went answered. Each client’s file could be accessed through the attorneys’ and staffs’ computers and other devices. Our law library can be accessed so research can be conducted anywhere and anytime. If motions or other documents needed to be drafted, sent, and/or filed, SZL implemented the virtual infrastructure to allow all SZL team members to achieve these goals, even on days when the office could not open due to weather, and most recently, due to the pandemic.
When the Covid pandemic hit America, other law firms were overwhelmed and bewildered, trying to quickly catch up on implementing the correct technology that would allow those attorneys and firms to continue to operate. SZL never lost one-second thinking of new measures to enact, because the latest and best measures were already enacted and being used by all SZL team members! All because about ten years ago, Jason wanted to reduce SZL’s carbon footprint, SZL was optimally ready for the pandemic and for offering unparalleled service to its clients.