COVID-19 Impact on Buffalo’s Largest Law Firms: What’s Changed?

Managing Partner and Corporate attorney, Craig S. Wittlin, was featured in a May 11, 2020, Buffalo Business First article titled, “COVID-19 impact on Buffalo’s largest law firms: What’s changed?”  In the article, Craig joined six other law firm officials to provide information on how the local legal industry is weathering the COVID-19 storm.

The firms were surveyed on their outlook, the initiatives taken to keep employees connected, the impact on expansion and/or local hiring plans, the impact on internships or clerkships for law students or recent graduates, clients service impact, and other firm efforts.

Below are Craig’s responses as published in Buffalo Business First:

Outlook: We know many firms across the country have made very difficult decisions to alter staffing, Harter Secrest & Emery is proud that we have been able to keep our entire team actively engaged in helping our clients navigate this unprecedented situation.

Impact on expansion and/or local hiring plans: While we implemented a general hiring freeze in mid-March, we do intend to keep our eyes open to opportunities to add talented lawyers and staff to our team. And we have not changed our plans to welcome five first-year associates this fall, including three to our Buffalo office.

Impact on internships or clerkships for law students or recent graduates: None. We are hosting our annual summer program. We are excited to welcome six law students this summer: two in Buffalo and four in Rochester, one of which is our diversity scholar recipient. They will join us in late June and work through July. While a portion of that program will be held virtually, those talented law students are an important part of our team and our firm’s future.

Increases in client services: The outbreak and rapid spread of the virus hit employers from every sector like a tidal wave and left them scrambling for answers. Helping clients navigate this situation has required an all-hands-on-deck response, with attorneys from multiple practice areas collaborating to address widespread and nuanced concerns and circumstances facing an array of clients, industries and businesses.

Other items of note: While this situation has been challenging and difficult for everyone, most notably the front-line health care workers and the families that have been personally affected by illness, it is also a moment in time that will have profound and long-lasting implications on the way we work. We are focused on being smart and proactive about those changes in ways that will allow us to serve the needs of our clients in new and valuable ways and provide a safe and energizing work experience for our people. … Through the chaotic nature and pace of the past eight weeks, our attorneys have helped our clients position themselves to weather a storm that has no specific end point, and to be prepared to resume activity as soon as that end point appears.

How we’re staying connected: Over the firm’s 125-year history, we have created a culture of family within the firm. As a family, we are doing everything we can to make sure each member feels supported and connected, even while working remotely. For example, we have hosted virtual happy hours for our teams and practice groups. We’ve hosted numerous Zoom calls to provide attorneys and staff with updates on the firm’s response to the pandemic and to just connect and see each other. We’ve also published and distributed a weekly “Staying Connected” email, with a different theme each week. These emails feature photos and quotes from attorneys and staff. One email featured pictures of home offices, another showed attorneys and staff engaged in extra-curricular activities, and another shared expressions of gratitude during these uncertain times. We’re also putting together a digital cookbook that will feature favorite recipes that we can all try as we engage in more home-cooked meals than likely ever before.

Click here to view the article on the Buffalo Business First website.

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