Who could have predicted, in early March of 2020, that our lives, and those of billions across the globe, would be so thoroughly and profoundly affected by a mysterious virus that was only beginning to make its presence felt?
When I first headed to my home office last year, I figured we’d have to hunker down for a few weeks, after which time life would return to normal, and we lawyers could go back to our offices, meet with our clients, and head over to the courthouse.
“Not so fast,” cautioned Covid-19. “I’m planning on sticking around for a while and teaching you a few lessons about what your life might look like after I slink back to the shadows.”
Here are a few things we’ve learned:
- Virtual meetings have changed the practice of law. Before the pandemic, video meetings were a rarity in the law business. Now, it’s hard to imagine not using Zoom, Webex, and all the other video conference platforms. Video conferencing has allowed mediations and collaborative divorce sessions to move forward, even when we couldn’t meet in person. Even after in-person meetings can resume, virtual mediation is expected to continue and thrive, especially in situations where a client is unable to appear in-person because of out-of-town trips, illness, or other problems that otherwise would prevent the meeting from happening.
- Courts have benefitted from virtual meetings. Before the pandemic, lawyers would make the trip to court, and then wait their turns in courtrooms and judges’ chambers. For the past year, all of our settlement conferences have taken place on computer screens. The conversion from in-person to virtual is a game-changer, saving attorneys and courts precious time, saving clients precious funds, and allowing judges’ dockets to run more efficiently; a virtual change that many courts say will continue into the future.
- Many firms have found working remotely to be more efficient than previously thought. The increase in office equipment designed to be used at home has left us far better equipped to manage our legal practices from wherever we may happen to be. While some attorneys found that being in an office is more comfortable, others have found that working from home allows them added flexibility, and lets them deal with family responsibilities while remaining available to service the needs of clients.
- All of these advantages notwithstanding, we’ve missed face-to-face meetings. No phone call or video chat has the impact of being able to look at a client or colleague in the eye, shake hands, and engage in an in-person conversation.
- The definition of being effective at work and connecting with each other may have changed, but the desire to do well for clients has not. Embracing technology has allowed firms to continue serving their clients without missing a step.