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In It Together: Essential vs Non-Essential, Document Signings, Surprising Revelations

  • What does “non-essential” mean for a law firm?
  • How to get documents signed where physical presence is required
  • Surprising revelations about working from home and the positive impact it can have on the growth of your business
  • Taking care of yourself and managing stress

Recorded: April 10, 2020
Interview: Cary L. Moss, Esq., Sawyer & Sawyer

Cary Moss is an attorney in Orlando, Florida. Her firm specializes in elder law and estate planning practice, probate, and trust administration. Her firm has 15 employees and she works with her mother and husband. Statewide Stay at Home order was issued on April 2, 2020. There had been a local executive order in place before then.

Essential and Non Essential

With the local executive order, essential included legal services. So we were working but we’d made some changes. For example, we were working with a rolling staff so that we weren’t all in the office at the same time. The state order was less clear. “Legally mandated activities” are essential but what does that mean? We are always looking for clarification. We took the approach that we were essential; however, we decided to do our part and work remotely – all workers. We are taking it one week at a time but we expect remote work to continue through the month of April.

Essential workers can show up in the office while non-essential workers can conduct business – it just needs to be remote. There is still so much you can be doing remotely for your clients first and foremost but also for your business. 

Remote Notarization/Witness

Florida doesn’t have a provision for remote witnesses or notarization at this time.There are creative ways to handle these two issues. What we did, prior to April 3rd, was have our rolling staff set up outside the office door with a table for signings. We informed clients how this would work ahead of time and reviewed all of the documents over phone and/or video. At the table, clients would simply sign and walk away. We would put the documents into a folder and keep it quarantined for several days. We wiped the table with bleach, provided masks, wiped or tossed the pens, and washed our hands. After the documents sat for their quarantine, we then processed them, scanned them, added them to binders, etc.

After April 3rd (the state-wide order), we are not holding signings for the next couple weeks unless it is an extreme emergency using the same approach. We have one next week – it may be only signing in April.

Medicare and other necessary signings can be made possible with the assistance of staff at certain facilities – We have found that staff members to be happy to help since ensuring Medicare payments is in their interest.

Working Remotely – Silver Linings

I’m not very tech savvy and I’m resistant to change. I’ve never been open to remote work as a uniform policy. 

  • Be positive. Have a positive mindset.
  • Opportunities can be found. Being forced into this has opened my eyes and I see that our firm and our clients are embracing it.
  • Practice weaknesses can be spotted. With this visibility, you can identify those weaknesses and either fix them or eliminate them.


  • Professional: Reach out to mentors and colleagues. The community is willing to share. Play around with tech – practice on your colleagues to alleviate stress when meeting with clients.
  • Personal: Physical activity to bring down stress level – make it a priority. Even little bits of time are helpful.

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