How My Litigation Practice Has Changed During the Pandemic
October 8, 2020
It is Thursday, March 12, 2020. The week is near end, and I am ready for the weekend after a long week of litigating. While people had been talking at the water cooler the past week about some new virus, sometimes mentioning the CDC, no one has any idea about how coronavirus was about to change our lives and legal practice…
When I woke up on March 13, 2020, the courts were open, I worked in an office on LaSalle street, my kids were in school, and it was a daily occurrence to pop into the local coffee shop, chat with a barista, and leave with a warm cup of coffee. I liked this routine – I enjoyed each day.
If text had sound, here would be the car screeching as it blasts into a brick wall and explodes in a flaming mess.
By the evening of March 13, 2020, news had broken that the Cook County and local federal court would be closed for some period of time, our law firm office announced a temporary closure, Governor Pritzker issued the first of many Executive Orders, which included unheard of stay-at-home orders, my kids were now to be homeschooled, every coffee shop would be closed, most businesses were closed, and my new office was my son’s desk with trinkets literally occupying every square inch of the surface. Much of what I thought was normal, that I came to expect, that I took for granted, was gone in a heartbeat – and I had no idea when my normal would be back. Wow, that happened quickly.
On Monday, March 16, 2020, there was presumably legal work to do. There was. The world was not over. Things were just different (clearly an extreme understatement). Instead of being in the office, and talking to my colleagues, we had to video conference – something we do to this day. While it took weeks for the state court to get up and running, it did, and I learned how to practice through phone and video conference. I also learned how to help clients resolve problems when access to the courts was nonexistent or limited.
Truth be told, since this whole coronavirus episode began, I have learned and honed important skills that have changed my legal practice. I learned about the resolve necessary to push forward when it felt like I was in a rudderless boat, how to be innovative for clients who needed help in uncertain times, how to be flexible in my legal practice and quickly adapt to my new surroundings, and, importantly, about empathy for both my clients and colleagues, many of who were now balancing homeschooling children, working full time simultaneously, and laboring through fear of a new virus spreading through the country.
Seven months later, I have a better desk (it’s in my basement now), I have a routine (which sometimes includes a coffee from the local shop), masks and six feet of separation are mandatory, and my kids are back in school. Has my life changed – big bold check. Has my legal practice changed – big bold check. Eventually the topsy-turvy world we live in will level out, and I (and we) will be rewarded with what I (and many of us) want more than anything – just a little bit of the old normal. Just a day where I can wake up, grab a cup of coffee, head to the train, and put in a solid day at the office. When that happens, and it will at some point, I can carry with me all that I learned in 2020 about resolve, innovation, flexibility, and empathy in an altered legal practice and be better for it.
Jason Hirsh is a partner and chair of Levenfeld Pearlstein’s Litigation Group where he focuses on protecting the assets of business owners as well as institutional clients. For more information, please reach out.