MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Joseph J. Tock has fought more than his share of legal battles over three decades of practicing law, but his biggest challenge to date might be fighting through the coronavirus pandemic to continue to provide his clients with the advocacy they need during these difficult times.
The virus didn’t stand a chance.
While continuing to advise and guide his clients through their legal struggles, Tock and his team at the Law Offices of Joseph J. Tock in Mahopac have made their offices as COVID-proof as possible.
“In terms of the physical office, we have plexiglass all around the paralegal stations, and we have plexiglass in our conference room,” Tock said. “We are extremely COVID-safe in this office. We have certain sanitary rules and are wiping down all the phones, all the doorknobs, all the mats on the table. We are spending extra time to make sure our building is clean and safe for our staff, clients and colleagues.”
But if clients are still concerned about coming in, Tock said the firm had done plenty of online consultations and will continue to do so.
“We have engaged in Zoom consultations and have done a number of Zoom court appearances,” he said.
The courts closed down in March, but are slowly beginning to reopen and Tock says business is starting to pick up.
“There were fewer arrests (and just less action in the criminal justice system) over the past six months,” he said. “We were basically closed through Memorial Day, but since then we have had paralegals working at least three days a week and in 2021 I think we will be back to full strength.”
Tock said since the pandemic has waned somewhat in recent weeks in this region and there has been a slow and controlled return to normalcy, he’s noticed a significant uptick in two areas of the law in which his practice specializes: real estate and wills, trusts and probate.
“In the last six weeks or so there’s been a tremendous increase in real estate transactions, both buyers and sellers and, of course, we represent both,” Tock said. “People are coming to northern Westchester and Putnam County from the city. Plus, interest rates are historically low, which is really advantageous, especially for first-time homebuyers.”
Tock said that the exodus from the city was spurred by COVID, but also because more and more folks are working from home and don’t have to live in the heart of New York anymore to be close to their jobs.
“People are now able to work remotely, so they don’t have to live within an hour of New York City,” he said. “If they can work at home three days a week, life is not as onerous as having to take the train five days a week.”
The increase in wills, trusts and probate clients, Tock believes, is due to the pandemic.
“People have become more aware of themselves, more aware of their families and more aware of their future,” he said.
“They’ve had time to think and time to focus on their families and I think they are making good decisions as far as getting their legal and estate documents in order.”
Tock said no matter what the client seeks, his firm has a full staff that’s able to accommodate them.
“We have been working quite vigorously on estate administration,” he said. “And we have done some real estate closings virtually by sending documents a day or so in advance to the title companies and the banks. But we have had some closings right here in the office and we have client consultations right here as well. Again, masks required, social distancing.”
But it’s not just real estate and wills and trusts that Tock’s team specializes in. They also offer results-driven criminal defense representation for people charged with DWI, drug offenses and other crimes, as well as personal injury representation after automobile accidents and other traumatic, life-altering events.
Tock’s former clients will testify how good he and his staff are at what they do.
“We’ve been a client of the Law Offices of Joseph Tock for three separate matters—an estate and two real estate transactions,” said Vincent Colarco. “In all cases, Joe and his team handled all our needs in a most professional, efficient and courteous manner. They really represent the best standards of their profession and we consistently felt that they were fully supportive and always there for us.”
Adrisse Brandt said she was impressed with the way the firm responded so quickly to her online request for help.
“Mr. Tock called me himself to advise me on how to plead for my teenage son’s third speeding ticket in less than a year,” she said. “I found his price reasonable and his advice sound. He delivered beyond expectations.”
As the courthouse in Carmel slowly begins to reopen, Tock had praise for the legal industry for the way it has operated during the pandemic.
“The court clerks and court officers have been tremendous at facilitating safety and I am very proud to be part of the Putnam County legal community because of that,” he said. “And the state Bar Association is keeping our members alert and aware of all the changes that are going on [during the pandemic.]”
Now, Tock says he is optimistic for a complete return to normalcy next year.
“I think by January things will improve and hopefully 2021 will be a much better place for all of us than 2020 has been,” he said.