The New Normal: Adjusting to COVID in the Legal Profession

People across the country and the world are commemorating the first anniversary since widespread lockdowns began thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. So much has changed in just one year. Most of us have made the necessary changes in our personal and professional lives to keep ourselves and others safe. The legal industry is no different and as a matter of fact may have seen more changes than many other professions.

I have had the opportunity to speak to many attorneys practicing in a range of different areas, and I’ve learned more about their experiences over the last year. While some things have become more efficient, others have become more difficult, forcing individuals and firms to adjust. Some attorneys I’ve spoken with are more productive than before, while others struggle to keep up.

As courthouses around the country shut down and most travel was suspended, attorneys moved a considerable amount of their work to online platforms such as Zoom. This has become a bit of a double-edged sword in my experience. On one hand, I can get much more accomplished before hearings, and it is very helpful to have all the materials in a deposition laid out in front of me. On the other, deposing a witness over a computer screen does not allow me to read body language and facial expressions. Additionally, as I’m no longer in the same room, face-to-face with the judges, I do not get to know them as well or form the personal connections I otherwise might. In some instances, things have become even more impersonal as many have begun to experience Zoom fatigue and turn their cameras off on video calls. Conducting business through screens or over the telephone is one area that will stay with us long after most of the population has received the COVID vaccine.

Shutdowns have also changed the ways in which cases are resolved. Because most trials were postponed as courts closed, there is now an incredible backlog of cases to work through. This has led to a rise in number of cases being mediated. As a matter of fact, I have seen more attorneys turn to mediation as a matter of necessity as some judges won’t even hear certain motions in a case without it first going through the mediation process. It has become the legal industry’s new normal.

As not only an attorney but a small business owner, the pandemic has caused me to rethink the ways in which to operate the law firm, market Perry Law P.C. and engage with my clients. My foremost concern will always be the health and safety of my employees. But in addition to their physical health, I want them to be mentally healthy, as well. We still maintain remote working on certain days and 100% of the office is never at the office at the same time. Speaking for myself, I have found the transition to be somewhat of an adjustment as, when I’m in the office, I tend to take fewer breaks and find that I’m more tired at the end of the day. I suspect managing this will be a process, but I do want to be mindful of it, not only for myself, but for those I work with in the industry.

The pandemic has also given me the opportunity to reevaluate more practical matters regarding my business, as well. For example, working from home has given me a much better sense of exactly what I need in terms of supplies and materials to operate the firm.

While there is a learning curve involved, I have been very happy to see my colleagues, peers, and industry use the past year to better the methods and procedures used to get our work done. It’s my hope and belief that we will come out of this experience stronger and having learned all the right lessons to work more efficiently, healthy, and with the knowledge that we can adapt to any problem thrown our way.