Lawyers across the U.S. responded to questions about how their income, client and case intake has changed since the pandemic. Here’s what Floridians reported.
By Raychel Lean, The Daily Business Review | May 26, 2020
COVID-19 has already taken money from the pockets of Florida lawyers, who, according to an anonymous survey, expect things to get worse before they get better.
Two hundred and ninety-two lawyers across the U.S. responded to questions between April 1-23 about how their income, client and case intake has changed since the pandemic. That sample included 31 Florida respondents—65% of whom said their income has already decreased.
With narcotics, white-collar and fraud cases down as police make less arrests and federal agents have stopped convening grand juries, some criminal defense lawyers are looking to civil law to supplement lost income, according to Bruce Lehr of Lehr, Levi & Mendez in Miami.
For Lehr, a criminal defense attorney, jury trials are his bread and butter. Before statewide closures — expected to last until at least July 1 — there was rarely a day that didn’t start with court, either in federal or state courts across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
Lehr said it’s been a bit like having the rug pulled out from under him, and it’s already having a financial effect.
“We’re just bearing the brunt of this because we are the leaders of the firm. We’re all in this together, and we love our team. Right now, that’s one of the ways in which we’re changing to to display our leadership,” Mark said. “I’m hopeful in the long term that there’s not going to be an effect on our finances. I’m hopeful that at the end of this we’re going to come out stronger as a team, and I know we’re going to come out stronger culturally.”
Though Mark said he doubts there’ll be a decline in business disputes over the coming months, he does expect clients to pay special attention to fees and payment plans.
“This is a time for empathy. This is not the time to call up your client every day and ask them, ‘Where’s the check?’ ” Mark said. “ I think you’re going to see a request for a lot more flexibility from clients on things like fee structure, rates, deferred payments and things like that because this all really just trickles down to the client’s pocketbooks.”
In Mark’s view, firms that specialize in corporate transactions could be in for a rough year as some of his corporate peers have said they don’t expect anymore big merger and acquisition deals in 2020.
Among the 20 Florida survey respondents who quantified the amount of income they’ve lost, one quarter said they had lost more than half of their income, while another quarter reported losing between 21 and 30% of their earnings.
But Mark remains optimistic, believing legal professionals will come out of this pandemic “a little bit leaner, a little bit stronger, a little bit hungrier and, I think, more client-focused.”