Governor Scott's Stay at Home Order!

On March 24, 2020, Governor Scott issued a ‘stay at home’ order which at present does not list law firms as essential businesses. The order encourages the continuance of remote work and social distancing practices, but many questions arise in terms of handling closings, domestic cases, wills, and other legal matters. The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) issued general guidance regarding the ability to leave home for work, if work cannot be done remotely and also recently issued a guidance more specific to legal services. It provides that businesses in the financial, legal and professional services sectors can conduct in-person activities if suspending the activities “would do harm to their client.” The guidance then gives examples such as helping first responders or those in need of urgent assistance who have no internet access. After discussion at a weekly conference call with section chairs and county bar presidents, the VBA will not seek additional guidance from the ACCD. Lawyers should use their best judgment for what in-person activities are allowable under the various guidelines. Click HERE for the Governor's Order, and see below for guidance from the Governor's Office and from the ACCD.

The Governor's Office has issued some guidance for interpretation of the terms of the Stay at Home Order. Here’s a link to the guidance . Specific FAQ’s in the guidelines pertinent to our practices are pasted below. The introductory section of the guidance provides:  

Any business able to continue operations without in-person business operations may be able to continue operating in accordance with CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidelines.  

I am a single person business, must I suspend operations if I am not on the critical list?

No.  If you are able to conduct your business without in-person business interactions, you have complied with previous orders concerning remote work and telework.  However, if your business requires you to do site visits that might require you to have an in-person contact, you may not be able to continue operations. 

What is the definition of “in-person business operations”?

The Stay Home, Stay Safe order directs businesses to suspend in-person business operations and transactions.  In-person business operations refer to both employees and customers.  A business should not operate, unless exempted within the order, if its operation requires one person to come into contact with another person.  This may occur because people share a workspace, must interact with a customer, or have incidental close contact outside of the CDC recommended social distancing. 

And click HERE for the more recent guidance regarding legal services, specifically.