Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto (COVID-19 – Where Are We Now?)
Like all great entrepreneurs, our clients learned how to innovate and adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode, Michael and Brad zoom out and reflect on the impact of COVID-19. We share how the pandemic affected our lives professionally and personally, the impact it had on our clients in the medical industry and evaluate where we are now.
Listen to the full episode using the player below, or by visiting one of the links below. Below is the episode’s transcript which has been edited for readability. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. Legal issues, simplified through real client stories and real world experiences. Creating simplicity in three, two, one.
Brad: Welcome back to another episode of Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto I’m your host Brad Adatto with my co-host Michael Byrd.
Michael: Thanks Brad. As a business and healthcare law firm, we’re often immersed in the heavy details of a particular issue or project. It’s beneficial, if not mandatory to every so often take a step back and evaluate the bigger picture. This season’s theme is Zoom
Out . We have all been immersed in the life of a global pandemic and so we’re going to make sure with each story that we step back and look at how the issue we discuss will be impacted in our new normal. Today though, we’re going to meet COVID head-on, Brad. We’re going to focus on the impact of COVID-19 that it had [00:01:00] on 2020 and 2021 and Brad, I don’t know if you remember, but it’s just been about a year ago that we actually had a special episode with Paul Frank, where we talked about his COVID experience.
Brad: Yeah. He was one of the first seasons. And as you said, we’re halfway through the year right now in 2021. And it feels like this is a good time as any to really address head on that the pandemic, the infection rates are steadily declining. And although we’re not completely in the clear, we all feel like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And, you know, Michael, we’re not discounting any of those new Delta variants or any other risk associated with COVID, but we don’t want to spend all the time talking about all the different COVID variants, but we feel like it’s essential, as we said, just take a big step back. But Michael, before we get into the pandemic talk, on a happier note, you know, you and I just recently got back from a long weekend celebrating the 4th of July.
Michael: It was great. I mean, we both were out of the office for a few days with our respective families. I went to Austin. I know you were in El [00:02:00] Paso.
Brad: That’s right. You know, and I’ve always enjoyed the 4th of July. Some of my oldest memories as a child is sitting on the back of my parents’ Oldsmobile station wagon that was the kind of station wagon where the back would kind of fall flat, like a pickup truck. And we’d sit there as little kids eating popcorn and watching a fireworks on the back bay of Destin, Florida. It seemed like we were always in Destin during that timeframe. So in my mind, you need to have at least fireworks during the 4th of July.
Michael: Is that when you learned back then how to set a Palm tree on fire during a 4th of July celebration?
Brad: I can neither confirm nor deny whether or not any fireworks may or may not have been launched into a Palm tree or had contributed maybe to the pruning of one Palm tree. Michael, what is your childhood memory of celebrating the fourth of July?
Michael: I feel like you just redirected there, but okay. Fine. We all know what happened.
Brad: Do we?
Michael: Yeah, I think we do. We’ll call the [00:03:00] local police and see. Anyway, when I think back to my childhood, I grew up in Dallas and there was a parade that at the time, it was just magical because our neighborhood would put together a float and everyone would participate and everyone basically would just run free. Um, until midnight that night and the parents were I realized now having their own parent fun. I was too busy running around with all the kids to realize why they kept going back to that big thing that I now know as a keg.
Brad: Well that’s a fun memory. It has a little bit of a Mardi Gras twang to it so that I can relate in a lots of different ways. As you mentioned when we started this episode, we’re going to be talking about zooming out and we’re looking back at this impact that COVID had on us and really then start addressing where we are now. And we’re going to examine how the pandemic [00:04:00] affected our lives both professionally, personally, and how it actually impacted our clients. So let’s start with how COVID impacted us professionally and Michael, since we all know that you love context, let’s start back in January of 2020 super bowl weekend. You and I were in Vegas and some people were talking about this thing called COVID-19, but it really wasn’t really the major discussion.
Michael: Yeah. It’s really weird to think about it in retrospect and it wasn’t just you and I, I mean we had our entire team there for the Medical Spa Show. And we had taken more of our team than at any other conference and it was just vibrant. There was so much energy behind a bunch of us, maybe six, seven attorneys speaking at different things and I kept hearing about this COVID that was [00:05:00] so far away that it almost didn’t feel real. And it certainly didn’t feel real to me. And it’s crazy that that was just the Super bowl weekend, not far away from, you know, everything changing.
Brad: Yeah. And so let’s fast forward a little bit. Let’s jump to March 11th, 2020. This is the day where the world health organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. And at this point, the number of cases were increasing by like something 13 fold since its first identification and in December. And then we started learning these new vocabulary words like fatten the curve and social distancing that was spreading around the country, probably just as fast as COVID was. And no one knew what to expect. But the shock waves of the pandemic, they were leaving their mark. We were tracking it like everyone else would be. And at this point, no one was wearing masks or social distancing. We were all just working together like normal. [00:06:00]
Michael: Yeah and we started having more calls from our clients asking if they had to shut down. What was really weird was that California got hit with COVID first, before us. So it still wasn’t quite real to us. And yet, in these different areas of the country where we’re getting these phone calls that felt like foreign questions about whether they had to close their business. And then we’re trying to talk to our employees and we were all on the same page, not ever any of us, I mean, Brad, you probably were alive in the last pandemic, but we won’t go there, trying to figure out what we do as a firm and as everyone was talking about heading home for 14 days. I remember you and me meeting with our office manager, specifically on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020, and talking about having to [00:07:00] work from home remotely for 14 days to flatten the curve.
Brad: Yeah and it was our operations team hats off to them. They did an amazing job. They quickly determined that we need a couple more laptops. And so on Wednesday they went out and got them and by Friday, March 13th, 2020, we pulled everyone into our big conference room and said hey, we’re all going to flatten the curve here. We’re going to go home for 14 days and we’ll see you thereafter.
Michael: Yeah and there was a clear understanding that this was not a break. We wanted to provide uninterrupted service to our clients during a time of deep uncertainty and really test our platform that was built for people to work remote, but never tested to see if our entire office could be remote. It ended up being really helpful for everyone. Our clients needed us more than ever even though we didn’t have the answers we were there to try to find them [00:08:00] and be there with them as someone to at least listen and I think one of the things they’ve appreciated about us is that we are lifelong learners and we were jumping in real time to laws and trying to figure them out. I still have painful flashbacks when I hear PPP loan, but you know, with clients in nearly 50 states and everyone having different rules because depending on where COVID was and how they were dealing with it. We were pivoting and digesting new rules on a daily basis. Unlike anything either of us have ever experienced in our careers.
Brad: Yeah and we quickly realized that we couldn’t keep this pace of just having to have every single client have a single phone call with them and answering the same question over and over again, even on the times when we figured out the answer. And that’s when we decided, you know, we need to start releasing certain daily videos about what’s [00:09:00] happening. So basically five days a week we started releasing videos about what’s happening nationally or state levels, what was trending, and during a very short period of time we actually ended up doing over 60 videos the first few months just because our clients really needed that. And then besides keeping up with all the new regulations and releasing videos we still had clients that had regular business that had to be attended to. And so we had non COVID stuff that we were working on too. And I know for you and I, that obscene, I mean, just crazy hours, we were working seven days a week. I mean, I remember having phone calls with you at 5:30 in the morning and that became very normal for us because that was the time we had to get up and get going.
Michael: Yeah, every time we would catch up on a new rule, the state local or federal government might change another one. And we’d spent hours discussing the something with the SBA, then understanding the difference between the idol loan and the PPP loan and how do they interact with each other? And [00:10:00] the people writing these laws were figuring it out on there on the fly. So everyone was learning real time and so abiding by state versus medical board rules, and finally the labor laws with furloughs. You know, I hadn’t used the word furlough in the first 25 years of practicing and then all of a sudden that was a daily conversation piece. So, you know, one of my favorite stories just to really paint the picture of what life was like is, I know you talked to a surgeon here in Texas at seven o’clock on a Sunday because the client wanted to know if he could operate the next day in his surgery center and the answer at the time was, yes, you were right. You said, yes, he could do it. And I saw some flash come by that I woke up to that morning and you and I [00:11:00] got on the phone at five in the morning that the medical board had issued something, banning that procedure from being able to happen those types of procedures. And so you were left scrambling with giving advice on something that changed just a few hours later.
Brad: I mean, who would have thought that Sunday night we’d have a call and two or three hours later on Sunday, the medical board released an emergency order prohibiting everything effective immediately. So, yeah, that was a 5:00 AM wakeup call that was pretty real. Luckily we had the client’s cell phone number, so I was able to text him and let him know that all the surgeries he had planned for that day were now basically against the rules. And so that was just an interesting time of things shifting so fast, you couldn’t keep up with it. And then as a firm we were meeting weekly on our budget because we had so many clients closing, it was impacting their ability across the board which [00:12:00] impacted us. We had to look at our payroll and on our lease, our two biggest expenses weekly on a budgetary sense, but I’ll say I was pretty proud of how it all worked out because we were able to keep all our employees at their salaries. I think a lot of that has to do with a lot of thanks to our Access+ program, which I know we’ve talked about before, but that helped us prove it. It survived the pandemic and at the same time we were able to add new clients during this pandemic who were either watching our videos or just knew that they needed help.
Michael: Yeah. I can’t overstate the gratitude that we feel for our clients sticking with us and they needed us and they used us, but you know, they were closed. I mean, it was for April and May, almost like you said, 90% of our clients were closed for business. And we felt even more pressure to be there for [00:13:00] them because they were staying with us. One of the cool things that we did that came out of it was we for our Access+ members launched a COVID-19 toolkit on the member portal. And we just put a ton of information up there and it kind of ties back to getting those videos out. There was so much happening. We had to figure out a way to disseminate information and tools in mass, because there was just not enough time in the day to go one by one with how fast things were changing.
Brad: Yeah and I’d say, besides that I’m proud of the fact that we were able to connect with them. We did some private webinars besides that the number of webinars, you and I did during that time was pretty crazy too, but you know what you’re talking about, the COVID 19 toolkit, that was huge because we realized that was a way for them to streamline information. We also released since then the OSHA and the patient toolkit, but most important, certainly for our loyal [00:14:00] listeners, we launched this podcast during the, the pandemic. May 27th, 2020 was our first introduction because we love this as another form of education. In fact still to this day, our first podcast is still the most listened to episode. And which is the crazy thing, Michael we’re in our fifth season.
Michael: Yeah, as a firm during the pandemic it seemed like every week one of the partners was on a webinar or giving updates on these various new federal and state rules. I know that you and I both personally were experiencing the ups and downs of COVID working nonstop for days on end was burning us both out. By working from home there were some definite silver linings and I’ll say, one of those great memories I had is being able to sit down and have three meals a day with my kids that are the ones that are at home in their junior high, high school years. My wife, Stephanie works like I do and [00:15:00] so to sit down at lunch, is a rare occasion and for us to do it every single day, just as part of our routine, the kids doing their break from school and us breaking from work is a great memory.
Brad: Yeah I mean, and similar to you obviously working from home, it was great because, we got to spend a lot of time together with the kids and one of the things is with the school day being so short, the kids were done with her homework pretty early on. And so we said, well, this is a perfect opportunity to learn how to cook. So they started cooking dinners and every child had to pick a dinner each week and no, cooking did not call for ordering pizza that did not count. We also played a lot of board games, we taught my kids to play Texas hold. There was a lot of bonding for the family, so it was great. And obviously we were doing everything we’re supposed to be doing, but in December of [00:16:00] 2020 we got to spend some extra time together because my beautiful daughter, Madeline decided that for Christmas she was going to give everyone to COVID. So that was lots of fun. And we were blessed because not one of us got seriously sick from it, but we quarantined, like we were supposed to and rode Christmas out with COVID. What about you, Michael? I know you have a fun story about COVID.
Michael: Yeah. I’ll say just your story first, Brad, I just remember talking to you on the phone and talking about how y’all were doing Christmas, not all the family had COVID yet and y’all were trying to distance and it was just crazy how impactful that was, but yes. My oldest daughter, Caroline got engaged during COVID and planned a wedding during COVID and the wedding was in September of 2020. So COVID was still alive and kicking no vaccine yet, obviously. And on the Tuesday [00:17:00] before Caroline’s wedding, my middle daughter, Ava, who’s a freshman in high school got COVID and that seems bad enough until you start to play out what that means. And what that meant was that our entire family was under quarantine and that meant that we were not able to go to Caroline’s wedding. And so for a few days, it is just as awful as everyone picturing that it would be, and having to tell Caroline and having to listen and see her process and realize that her dad was not going to walk her down the aisle, um, was just devastating. After a couple of days, we all, as a family do what most families do and rallied. And you know, this was not about anyone that was at our house. It was about Caroline and Gabe, her husband, so we used Zoom as a [00:18:00] means to participate in the wedding. They set up some AV there so that I could give the toast. And then my dad stepped in and walked Caroline as the surrogate down the aisle and had FaceTime for me to be able to give her away. And the cool thing happened that day of the wedding was a friend of mine who happens to be a news reporter called me, or texted me to play tennis and I was explaining to them why I was not available and his response was, wow, that’d be a great story. And fast forward a bunch of texts back and forth and we led the 10 o’clock news here in Dallas, where they ran a news story on us doing a virtual wedding. And you can actually Google Caroline Byrd wedding and see the video and see our view of Caroline getting married.
Brad: And for those who [00:19:00] want to see it, what’s the funniest part. I actually happened to watch it live. The newscaster starts off with Cowboys lose again, but local family finds a way to have a wedding with COVID and it goes straight to Michael Byrd’s story, which is funny it’s that the Cowboys lose again, this was an afterthought. Well, those are good times for all of us, Michael, you know, let’s take a little break here and we come back we’re going to spend some time talking about the impact COVID had on our clients, the medical industry, and where we are now.
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Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I am your host Brad Adatto with my cohost Michael Byrd. Michael, we just spent the first half of this episode really discussing the impact that COVID, this pandemic had on us professionally and personally, but let’s discuss the impact it had on our clients, especially those in the medical industry.
Michael: Yeah, well this hopefully will be a little less emotional than us having to relive missed weddings and different Christmases. But we first noticed the impact with our clients when we all we’re learning how to use this new program called Zoom, which obviously for us with offices in Chicago, we were a little ahead of the curve and we already had Zoom meetings, but there was Zoom for meetings, there were Zoom for calls, Zoom for webinars, Zoom for happy hours and lunches. Yeah, [00:21:00] lots of Zoom. And I remember one of our good friends and clients telling us that he could not attend another Zoom meeting that he was zoomed out.
Brad: Yes. That’s a real term, zoomed out. Um, yeah. And so during this timeframe, we had a lot of clients that at the beginning they started being shut down by state rules so they had all this extra time. And so since they had all this extra time, they wanted more stuff. I remember there being a lot of those kinds of questions, but essentially what it came down to is with all the different groups that we work with and we have a very large plethora of doctors in lots of different specialties and based on the different backgrounds, overnight some of them all of a sudden learned that they were no longer essential. This threw them off a lot and I know that you and I had a lot of frustrated physicians that we’d speak with during the beginning of this pandemic saying, what do you mean I’m not essential? You know, I do this, I do that, I’m a [00:22:00] surgeon. What I do is essential, who has a right to do that. And they felt like they could find ways to safely reopen.
Michael: I’m laughing because I’m thinking back to some of the advice that I would give and a week later would just shutter that those words came out of my mouth. And at the beginning, this idea of COVID coming, I just remember telling people, ah, this is a medical practice they’re not going to, I can’t imagine them shutting down a medical practice. And then over and over and all of a sudden, I think I mentioned earlier about 90% of our practices were closed. I mean, in Texas, the shutdown was extreme. It wasn’t just elective medicine. The breadth of what they closed was amazing. But it was [00:23:00] really cool to see the entrepreneurial spirit come out of our clients and learn how to innovate during this pandemic. We saw people take hold of telemedicine for the first time, even though it’s been around forever, and come up with some processes that will probably will stick to this day. I can remember online stores being open to sell products and, you know, to all sorts of different ideas of how they would pivot themselves during this pandemic.
Brad: Speaking of telemedicine, Michael, I think we should be doing an entire episode this season on that, but yeah, our clients did love telemedicine. You and I have been speaking on telemedicine for years but it was new to a lot of people who had never used it before. It was great because they can maximize the time they spent with the patient by diagnosing and coming up with a treatment plan for them but then they would minimize the [00:24:00] actual time they spent in person with the patient. So it allowed these practices to really reevaluate what technologies they were using.
Michael: The pandemic also exposed some practices that were behind the times and if they did not have a digital platform to run their practice it was extra painful if they were still using paper charts and trying to scan it into the system, it exposed the weaknesses of having to have people in the office versus being able to just record it and kind of a secure digital cloud system.
Brad: That’s a great point and what we learned with more people using digital medical records and working from home, it also increased the cyber tax on the medical industry. Many businesses have not spent the time or effort to really secure their systems or their computers, allowing hackers to take advantages of where these weaknesses were. And unfortunately, we did have a few clients that got hit [00:25:00] with cyber-attacks. But the medical industry as a whole had the biggest impact in any other industry during COVID. We could do probably an entire episode on cybersecurity.
Michael: I think you just hit on something. I think we should have Riley here make that note for next season. The pandemic also exposed those practices that were overstaffed. Many of our clients, when they were shut down, had to furlough their employees. I mentioned this earlier, having to figure out exactly what that meant legally. Everyone knew the term for it, but just in our industry, people either are employed or fired, not furloughed. Then we had this weird thing where offices were closed for months and what does that mean for an HR perspective? What are those implications? And then they come back [00:26:00] and realize they don’t need the same number of employees, so how do they handle that? And then of course there was an impact on their forgiveness of their federal loans that come in.
Brad: All those tied to each other and I think some of the hardest conversations we have with a lot of the clients were that it was always about their employees as they started to come back as you were talking about. That they we had clients spending hours educating their staff about why it was safe to come back in and how they were going to have the proper PPE for them and how they were doing to do social distancing and how for some of them, they can still work from home. But the new processes of bringing on a patient or cleaning the rooms, all these new precautions that they never did, the simplest one everyone can relate to is, every single time you come in we are going to do a temperature check on you.
Michael: Yeah. If you think about it, it really brought out the fact that all of us as people respond differently [00:27:00] to these pressures and the pandemic being something new to everyone, you saw all sorts of reactions. You had challenges from employers who would have employees who were afraid to come in even though they were open and it was time to come back or you’d have the opposite where employees were maybe not feeling well, but they felt the pressure to keep their job and they would still show up and maybe even have a fever. It took a while for everyone to kind of accept that you had to check yourself with this pandemic and work from home if things weren’t right.
Brad: I agree. In this season, as we said from the beginning, this is all about zooming out and as part of the Zoom Out theme we talk about taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. So we’ve talked about all of the positive notes [00:28:00] that we saw with our clients and our team. The resilience of a lot of people as we were talking about them finding new ways to interact with their employees, finding new ways to interact with their patients and while each person’s situation is going to be different, many learned that through the experience, that tremendous hardship allows us to learn how to overcome some of the toughest moments in life.
Michael: Yeah we wear that on our sleeves. One of our three core values is compete and when we talk to people that are interviewing with us, we say we’re talking about grit and that is our ability as a team to get back to back when things are down and work through things together, and time and time again, throughout our careers we’ve done that and that’s been something that’s made ByrdAdatto resilient and special. And yet we were getting tested at a level we had never seen with this [00:29:00] pandemic. I know you and I both are just so proud of how every single person that worked here responded and stepped up in a different way and really brought to light our other two core values of communicate and create because being remote put a lot of pressure on figuring out ways to effectively communicate with each other and with our clients. I feel like we were having to think outside the box on a daily basis with the challenges that were presented to us. We produced as you mentioned, videos, podcasts, webinars, the toolkits all as a way to reach our client base and provide education in a way that was different than we used to, which was showing up to conferences and lecturing. And that was obviously off the table.
Brad: All true, Michael, but let’s discuss where we are now. As [00:30:00] we discussed over and over, COVID really put a big, huge strain on all of us in every different aspect of our lives which is why we’re seeing this massive migration in the job market known as the great resignation. Of course that’s the buzzword they’re using and for those not familiar with the term the great resignation, millions of people are quitting their jobs. According to labor department, a record 4 million people quit their jobs alone in April, which is basic cause a 20 year high. And according to monster.com, 95% of the workers are now considering changing jobs, and 92% are even willing to switch industries. Michael, unfortunately we’re seeing this happening with our clients and even our firm.
Michael: I recently went on vacation and experienced it in a way that probably most can see or have experienced trying to get on a flight. We were worried about whether our flight [00:31:00] would get canceled because the airlines understaffed, and then we would go to restaurants and they would apologize that it was going to be a little longer because they were understaffed. And we’re getting more and more calls from our clients having to work through implications of them being understaffed, trying to help, them wanting to understand the scope of practice of people. So if you have a RN leave but you still have an esthetician there, what can that esthetician pick up? So on and so forth and in the professional world, there’s those types of implications. As you mentioned, we’re experiencing it here as it is really painful, but since the vaccinations have come out we’ve had more people that have resigned here than probably our entire history. I think it’s just a reality that everyone is taking [00:32:00] stock of their lives after getting through something as traumatic as the pandemic. There’s going to be a continued impact and a lot of change. I think that we all have to be mindful as obviously attorneys for businesses and as business owners on how to respond to that.
Brad: Yeah, it’s great. All good points and the hardest part about all of this is that each person’s story, no matter where they are, is going to be unique to them. It’s the question of a lot of people because they were at home, had that time to reflect what do I really want to do my life, that I really want to be doing this type of profession. I’ve talked to people who are switching complete careers out of whatever their training is. So you know, I love what I do so I don’t understand it per se, but I understand that for each person you’re going to look at it from a different angle. [00:33:00] Michael, any other follow-up comments on that?
Michael: I’m just happy not to be wearing a mask. I got to go to the 4th of July celebration just recently and there were a lot of humans near each other, which was cool. I was in an area that was not under a fire ban which was cool because there were fireworks and I didn’t have to have a mask on which it’s amazing how quickly I’ve gotten used to not having to wear a mask.
Brad: Good. Well, I think that’s all the time we have today. Join us next Wednesday for something completely different, Speaking the Language of Non-Competes with Leiza Dolghih.
Michael: Yep. It’s going to be a good one.
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