If you take a large enough step back and look at the world of 2020, you’ll notice some unusual things happening. Air pollution around major cities plummeted while solar output around the country soared, spurred on by cleaner air from fewer commuters on the road. Fear of contamination from physical currency caused people to lean on the plastic more, leading to a national coin shortage. And we don’t even need to get into how hard it was to find toilet paper for a while.
All of these odd impacts have one thing in common: the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent shutdowns, shelter-in-place orders and assorted societal weirdness that goes with trying to avert a biological disaster.
And these impacts trickle further down. Luxury purchases have increased, as summer vacation plans cratered and freed up some discretionary spending. Even something as seemingly constant as the law has felt the impact of 2020’s “new normal.”
“Everyone’s had to audible,” Jim Bannon said.
“We’ve had to get creative,” Meredith Bannon added.
The husband-and-wife duo forged their dual practice seven years ago, building its foundation on their respective strengths. Both long-time prosecutors, most recently with South Carolina’s Fourteenth Judicial Circuit, each went a separate path in the legal field when they pooled together as a law firm and a couple. Jim pivoted to criminal defense, utilizing his in-depth knowledge of the law to provide legal protection for an array of clients. Meredith moved toward HOA litigation and real estate closings, finding her unique savvy and magnetic personality perfectly suited for the often-nerve-wracking world of real estate.
With COVID-19, they’re finding the impact on the respective natures of their dual practice to be as different as night and day.
“During quarantine, nobody was getting arrested,” deadpanned Jim. While that may have been a temporary lull in the number of people requiring representation, it nonetheless had far-reaching impacts.
“We haven’t had a jury trial in Beaufort Count in seven months,” he said. “With the courts closed, you would have a court date three months away, so there wasn’t any urgency to hire a lawyer.”
As lockdowns ease and the world begins to open up, Jim still faces the same social distancing and mask requirements we all do. Only he faces his in the tight confines of a courthouse, in the case of Jasper County, or the even tighter confines of a jail. “It’s part of the gig, I guess. But the train’s still moving down the track. It has to be done.”
The wheels of the law continue to turn, and on the real estate side of Bannon Law Group, those wheels are moving at 7,000 RPMs.
“We were taking in twice the normal number of closings in July. We couldn’t keep up,” Meredith said. “My email would refresh, and there would be two to three more closings.”
Between people up north looking for a way to escape the clustered confines of cities and a flurry of refinancing from low interest rates, Meredith has been busier than every during the pandemic. And by all accounts, she’s only going to get busier. “I think real estate is going to be even more crazy over the next few years,” she said.
Of the many question marks still lingering about the future under this pandemic, the question of liability continues to move to the forefront. For Meredith, it’s a question for which she’s already beginning to find answers. “As far as HOA stuff, we’re getting some very interesting questions about liability,” she said—whether opening up common areas or simply conducting neighborhood businesses, homeowners associations could be on the hook for future outbreaks. “We’re getting a lot of questions, ‘If our annual meetings are coming up, what are we required to do?’ So, we’ve been working with them to draft waivers to allow business to continue as usual.”
Of course, the greatest protection against liability is caution. And at Bannon Law Group, they’re leaving nothing chance. “We’ve had to limit people coming into the office, but it’s led to some interesting questions about how you can get documents notarized when you can’t get close to someone,” Meredith said. “We’ve had e-signing capabilities long before this, but it has been so clutch during all this.”
And if there’s a silver lining, it’s that these solutions have made the closing process easier. “It’s actually made it less stressful for clients because they can focus on moving in. We have much more flexibility in working with their schedule,” Meredith said.
When the Bannons built their law practice together, bringing together their dual talents for criminal defense and real estate law, they had no idea that one day this balance would help them weather a pandemic. But it has, and it has taught them a few new tricks that will make the firm even more capable in the future. Even if it’s just a renewed appreciation for their chosen profession.
“I can’t wait until all this is behind us,” Jim said. “I love going to court.”
For more, visit bannonlawgroup.com or call (843) 874-7419.