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Important Messages from VBA President Novotny Regarding COVID-19- UPDATED 3/24/20

Message from President Novotny, 3/24/20:

Dear Members,

Each day brings new developments regarding COVID-19. In the very near future, it’s possible that Governor Scott may issue a shelter in place order. He has not advised us of that potential but this is the direction states are heading toward as this outbreak widens. I would like the VBA to provide thoughtful input to Governor Scott in advance of any order. We are working hard with the Board of Managers and members to consider essential services recommendations, as well as working to propose emergency rules for remote notarizations as Vermonters continue to need legal services for closings, will executions and family emergencies, among other things.

We have a phone conference with the county bar presidents and VBA section chairs on Wednesday, March 25th at 12:15pm where I will ask participants to provide me with their recommendations as well. 

Please see my most recent letter to the Governor, pasted here:

Dear Governor Scott,

I’d like to add to the topic that Peter McDougall raised in his letter to you this morning.  This Thursday the VBA Board will discuss law firms as essential services in preparation of the possibility you issue a shelter-in-place order.  We plan to forward our recommendations to you Friday morning.  Our intent is offer assistance to you in the event you find it necessary to deliberate a shelter in place order. If you would like our recommendations  sooner, please let us know and we will expedite the matter.  

Lawyers have certainly been deluged with requests for legal services associated with the current crisis. They are working hard to meet client needs while working remotely.  In some instances, this will not be possible.  We will endeavor to craft recommendations that balance the interests of public health and providing essential legal services.

We’re continuing our efforts to provide guidance as to how to practice law during this health emergency.  For example, Teri Corsones is testifying this afternoon in Senate Judiciary about emergency legislation to enable estate planning and real estate transactions in the current environment. 

Thank you again for all that you and your team are doing to meet the many challenges throughout Vermont.

Sincerely yours, 

Elizabeth Novotny

We are here to serve you and will endeavor to keep you all informed as the crisis unfolds.

Thank you for your anticipated assistance, 

Beth

 

Updated Letter from President Novotny, 3/19/20:

 We at the VBA don’t want to inundate you with emails, but we also don’t want you to miss the important resources that are available to you. We recommend that you check the VBA website regularly. It’s being updated daily with important information relevant to your practices concerning the COVID-19 crisis. The VBA Connect communities are also continually posting helpful information particular to the sections, with property law and family law being most active at this time; members can join however many sections they wish at no charge. Take advantage also of two free upcoming CLE webinars - Virtual Practice and the Coronavirus Pandemic on March 31 (1.0 CLE) and Mindful Moments for Wellness on March 26 (30 minutes). More info and registrations HERE.

I’m also writing to otherwise share a sample of steps that the VBA is taking to serve the public and the profession. In response to the Supreme Court’s Administrative Order 49 (AO 49) Declaration of Judicial Emergency, the VBA asked the Court for regular conference calls to discuss how AO 49 is impacting our clients, members and other issues related to COVID-19.  In conjunction with those calls, we’ve invited our VBA section chairs and the county bar presidents to participate in regular joint conference calls to assist us in a coordinated and efficient line of communication from all of you, through us to the Court. It is my hope that we continue the conference calls until the COVID-19 event ceases to impact our VBA community.

It’s important that we hear from you regarding any issues impacting our members or their practices related to AO 49 and COVID-19 responses generally. During our calls with the VBA section chairs and county bar presidents we will discuss how best to gather that information from you. 

We are also in the process of forming an ad hoc VBA COVID-19 Committee that will be tasked with gathering relevant information and resources to best assist Vermont lawyers and the Vermont community as we navigate the challenges facing us. The Committee will also work closely with organizers of a state-wide disaster relief program that’s being set up to connect Vermont lawyers with Vermonters in need of legal assistance for issues related to COVID-19.  

Today I sent this letter to Governor Scott on behalf of the VBA. Also, I am exploring ways in which the VBA might support our more vulnerable members through this COVID-19 pandemic. I will update you as this unfolds.

Our VBA staff is working diligently to meet your needs as we navigate these uncharted COVID-19 waters. We are, for example, exploring ways to assist our members in meeting licensure and CLE requirements given the likelihood that live CLEs may not be available in the upcoming months. We will be offering a variety of on-line and webinar CLE options as a result.  

I’d like to publicly express my gratitude to Teri Corsones and our talented VBA staff for their commitment to the needs of our membership. 

Stay well,

Elizabeth Novotny, President

Vermont Bar Association

  

Letter from President Novotny, 3/17/20:

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, I wanted to take a moment and speak to each of you—remotely. While most people will recover from a COVID-19 illness, COVID-19 is deadly serious for older Vermonters and people with chronic health issues and immune deficiencies.

In the very near future, the number of people infected and ill with COVID-19 in Vermont will likely jump dramatically. The state’s goal is to flatten the curve of demand for our state’s limited medical resources so that anyone who needs to access treatment for the illness will have full access. We can and should pitch in to help our Vermont community.  

     The Judiciary is actively working toward minimizing person to person exposure through an emergency order. See:  https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/sites/default/files/documents/AO 49_0.pdf  We remain in contact with the Chief Justice and Chief Administrative judge about this outbreak. Our focus is on mitigating the impact of this virus on our client community and VBA members’ ability to meet licensure (CLE) requirements. 

     The VBA is also communicating with the Vermont Secretary of State, Vermont League of Cities and Towns and the VBA Property Law and Municipal Law Sections about town clerk office closures. The VBA is posting information regarding the judiciary’s response to COVID-19 and town clerk closings on its website:  https://www.vtbar.org/.  I know you all care about your colleagues and staff so many of you are probably doing what you can but this bears repeating.  Our Vermont legal community will represent individuals and entities on both sides of the legal claims and issues that will arise during this time. To the extent you are professionally and ethically able to do so, find a way forward that demonstrates our humanity. In addition, please make every reasonable effort to flatten the curve of this outbreak:

 

  • Permit employees to work remotely. 
  • Limit travel, person to person contact/meetings, and work related social gatherings.
  • Be generous with medical leave to your employees in the event of an illness that might be related to COVID-19 regardless of the absence of a positive test for COVID-19 (Vermont Department of Health https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/infectious-disease/2019-novel-coronavirus).
  • Take every precaution to keep yourself from getting sick by following the health recommendations.
  • Prepare your home for a quarantine in the event you do not feel well.
  • Assist those less able to prepare for a quarantine at home by donating to your local food shelf or the Vermont Foodbank (https://www.vtfoodbank.org/give-money).
  • Stay in touch with your neighbors and friends to ensure they are successfully convalescing or have what they need to stay quarantined. 
  • Be supportive of and patient with your financially challenged or vulnerable clients.
  • Use VBA connect as a way to stay in touch with our VBA community.

     We are in the early stages of creating a “new normal” by re-defining how we live and work.  It will be challenging for our young lawyers struggling to meet loan obligations. It will be challenging for our members with families requiring care. It will be challenging for our members in the high-risk category facing more severe effects of the illness. It will be challenging for our members who are without family support. It will be challenging for our co-workers and colleagues living from paycheck to paycheck. It will be challenging for our members facing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. 

I have full confidence our membership will rise to support each other and our Vermont community. Please be patient with each other, be kind, be supportive, be in touch, be forgiving and most of all, be well.

Elizabeth Novotny

 

 

Thank you for your anticipated assistance. 


 

Updated Letter from President Novotny, 3/19/20:

 We at the VBA don’t want to inundate you with emails, but we also don’t want you to miss the important resources that are available to you. We recommend that you check the VBA website regularly. It’s being updated daily with important information relevant to your practices concerning the COVID-19 crisis. The VBA Connect communities are also continually posting helpful information particular to the sections, with property law and family law being most active at this time; members can join however many sections they wish at no charge. Take advantage also of two free upcoming CLE webinars - Virtual Practice and the Coronavirus Pandemic on March 31 (1.0 CLE) and Mindful Moments for Wellness on March 26 (30 minutes). More info and registrations HERE.

I’m also writing to otherwise share a sample of steps that the VBA is taking to serve the public and the profession. In response to the Supreme Court’s Administrative Order 49 (AO 49) Declaration of Judicial Emergency, the VBA asked the Court for regular conference calls to discuss how AO 49 is impacting our clients, members and other issues related to COVID-19.  In conjunction with those calls, we’ve invited our VBA section chairs and the county bar presidents to participate in regular joint conference calls to assist us in a coordinated and efficient line of communication from all of you, through us to the Court. It is my hope that we continue the conference calls until the COVID-19 event ceases to impact our VBA community.

It’s important that we hear from you regarding any issues impacting our members or their practices related to AO 49 and COVID-19 responses generally. During our calls with the VBA section chairs and county bar presidents we will discuss how best to gather that information from you. 

We are also in the process of forming an ad hoc VBA COVID-19 Committee that will be tasked with gathering relevant information and resources to best assist Vermont lawyers and the Vermont community as we navigate the challenges facing us. The Committee will also work closely with organizers of a state-wide disaster relief program that’s being set up to connect Vermont lawyers with Vermonters in need of legal assistance for issues related to COVID-19.  

Today I sent this letter to Governor Scott on behalf of the VBA. Also, I am exploring ways in which the VBA might support our more vulnerable members through this COVID-19 pandemic. I will update you as this unfolds.

Our VBA staff is working diligently to meet your needs as we navigate these uncharted COVID-19 waters. We are, for example, exploring ways to assist our members in meeting licensure and CLE requirements given the likelihood that live CLEs may not be available in the upcoming months. We will be offering a variety of on-line and webinar CLE options as a result.  

I’d like to publicly express my gratitude to Teri Corsones and our talented VBA staff for their commitment to the needs of our membership. 

Stay well,

Elizabeth Novotny, President

Vermont Bar Association

  

Letter from President Novotny, 3/17/20:

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, I wanted to take a moment and speak to each of you—remotely. While most people will recover from a COVID-19 illness, COVID-19 is deadly serious for older Vermonters and people with chronic health issues and immune deficiencies.

In the very near future, the number of people infected and ill with COVID-19 in Vermont will likely jump dramatically. The state’s goal is to flatten the curve of demand for our state’s limited medical resources so that anyone who needs to access treatment for the illness will have full access. We can and should pitch in to help our Vermont community.  

     The Judiciary is actively working toward minimizing person to person exposure through an emergency order. See:  https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/sites/default/files/documents/AO 49_0.pdf  We remain in contact with the Chief Justice and Chief Administrative judge about this outbreak. Our focus is on mitigating the impact of this virus on our client community and VBA members’ ability to meet licensure (CLE) requirements. 

     The VBA is also communicating with the Vermont Secretary of State, Vermont League of Cities and Towns and the VBA Property Law and Municipal Law Sections about town clerk office closures. The VBA is posting information regarding the judiciary’s response to COVID-19 and town clerk closings on its website:  https://www.vtbar.org/.  I know you all care about your colleagues and staff so many of you are probably doing what you can but this bears repeating.  Our Vermont legal community will represent individuals and entities on both sides of the legal claims and issues that will arise during this time. To the extent you are professionally and ethically able to do so, find a way forward that demonstrates our humanity. In addition, please make every reasonable effort to flatten the curve of this outbreak:

 

  • Permit employees to work remotely. 
  • Limit travel, person to person contact/meetings, and work related social gatherings.
  • Be generous with medical leave to your employees in the event of an illness that might be related to COVID-19 regardless of the absence of a positive test for COVID-19 (Vermont Department of Health https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/infectious-disease/2019-novel-coronavirus).
  • Take every precaution to keep yourself from getting sick by following the health recommendations.
  • Prepare your home for a quarantine in the event you do not feel well.
  • Assist those less able to prepare for a quarantine at home by donating to your local food shelf or the Vermont Foodbank (https://www.vtfoodbank.org/give-money).
  • Stay in touch with your neighbors and friends to ensure they are successfully convalescing or have what they need to stay quarantined. 
  • Be supportive of and patient with your financially challenged or vulnerable clients.
  • Use VBA connect as a way to stay in touch with our VBA community.

     We are in the early stages of creating a “new normal” by re-defining how we live and work.  It will be challenging for our young lawyers struggling to meet loan obligations. It will be challenging for our members with families requiring care. It will be challenging for our members in the high-risk category facing more severe effects of the illness. It will be challenging for our members who are without family support. It will be challenging for our co-workers and colleagues living from paycheck to paycheck. It will be challenging for our members facing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. 

I have full confidence our membership will rise to support each other and our Vermont community. Please be patient with each other, be kind, be supportive, be in touch, be forgiving and most of all, be well.

Elizabeth Novotny