26
March
2020
|
06:02 PM
America/Chicago

An update on COVID-19 actions

Message from Missouri Bar President Tom Bender

I hope this finds you and your family healthy.

The Missouri Bar has been focused on trying to help our lawyers and our community navigate the troubled waters we have all experienced in both our personal and professional lives. To do so, we have centered our efforts on:

1. Information - provide current information you need on the courts and the bar

2. Problems - identify the problems our members and the community face

3. Solutions - work to help get those problems addressed

Here is what we have done:

Information

Missouri Courts:

  • Orders and notices related to the pandemic from every state court are available here: courts.mo.gov/pandemic
  • Today the Court enacted emergency procedures for administering oaths or affirmations during the pandemic. By suspending any state or local court rule that could be read to the contrary, the Court's action permits oaths or affirmations to be administered using videoconferencing, teleconferencing or other available technologies.

The Missouri Bar:

  • The Missouri Bar has suspended its in-person events including the Spring Committee Meetings. Check our Notices webpage to view up-to-date cancellation notices about Missouri Bar events.
  • The Supreme Court of Missouri has adopted changes to Rule 15, expanding the 2019-20 MCLE reporting year (now through Sept. 30) and reporting deadline (now Oct. 31). All MCLE requirements for Missouri lawyers can be fulfilled remotely as in-person attendance is not required. MoBarCLE will continue to offer a diverse and robust catalog of live programs via webinar to help keep Missouri lawyers up to date and in compliance. Plus, The Missouri Bar's new My MCLE annual reporting online application is now live. It was developed to help improve the ease of reporting your hours. Report your hours online today using My MCLE.
  • We've shifted to having most Missouri Bar employees work remotely. The bar team is continuing its services which are readily available to members and the public via phone and email. If you have questions, contact us so the appropriate team members can help.

Problems

  • We have tried to identify all issues that our members have been experiencing or may experience in the days and weeks to come. The first challenge for many of us was figuring out how to change our offices and practice remotely, combined with the technological challenges of doing so efficiently and with appropriate safeguards. Courts are open but are limited in what they can do in person, so prioritization of cases and finding ways to keep cases moving created new challenges. Remote practice and social distancing created problems with notarization of documents, court reporters swearing in remote witnesses, and questions abound about enforceability of deadlines, identification of what are essential offices and the like.
  • All of us are under the strain placed by this pandemic. Worries about our health, our families, and our practices are ever present. Figuring out how to best serve our clients places additional burdens on an already difficult practice, and the loss of income can be frightening. Wellness issues abound.
  • We also know the challenges placed on our community as citizens face closed businesses, interrupted jobs, and all the associated problems of figuring out benefits, insurance that may apply and what help is available. Those who were already vulnerable worry if they will be forgotten.

Solutions

Here is what we have done and are doing to address those problems we and our community are facing:

  1. In addition to creating an online Coronavirus Resource Center to assist Missouri lawyers with common concerns including working remotely and wellness, we have established a Covid Task Force to address additional issues as they arise. It is tasked to identify the problems we are facing in our legal community and to help get those problems solved. It is chaired by retired judges, Hon. Lisa Van Amburg and Hon. James Welsh, who know how to get things done, and we have a wonderful group of volunteers to both spot issues as they arise and come up with solutions.
  2. Our Supreme Court has been working tirelessly to make our Courts accessible and to help us better serve our clients. In addition to doing their "day jobs" of addressing the significant legal issues before them, they are meeting every other day to deal with the multitude of challenges facing the legal community. They have been incredibly responsive.
  3. To help lawyers maintain their emotional health, the Coronavirus Resource Center also provides links to mental health and well-being resources, including the free and confidential Missouri Lawyers' Assistance Program, which is here to help, 24/7 by calling (800) 688-7859. This service is available to you and your immediate family members, as well as law students in our four law schools in the state.
  4. To address the many legal questions that our citizens may have, our Free Legal Answers program – Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org – has been expanded. Any citizen who is of modest means (currently 250% of poverty level, but expected to temporarily rise to 400%) can obtain free answers to the multitude of questions that are arising. Please direct citizens to that site as you see those with needs who qualify, and we will also be making that program more known to all Missourians. John Gunn, your Missouri Bar President-Elect, has been active in expanding that volunteer base, including training of attorneys to address FAQs. This is a good way for you to get involved as you can. From your remote location, scroll through the questions raised and volunteer to answer just that question. It is easy for you, and it is so valuable to those who just want some guidance. We know how much better we feel if our doctors give us a simple answer or just help direct us to the right place; please provide that legal help to those in need.

We will continue to get you the most current information, to identify the problems we are facing and to try to find solutions to those problems. Please help us by letting us know what we can do to help and by volunteering to help our citizens. At any time, contact me (816-595-7715; 913-707-5554), your Board of Governors representative, or Missouri Bar staff. We're here to help.

Sincerely,

Tom Bender

Tom Bender

2019-20 Missouri Bar President