You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before. — Rahm Emanuel
In times of crisis, it is of utmost importance to keep one’s head. — Marie Antoinette
How quickly our legal lives have changed during the coronavirus. While many of us are still getting used to these changes, there is speculation about how the practice of law may change permanently after this pandemic resolves. Some predictions are obvious. Legal and economic experts believe that law firms, like many businesses, will continue to suffer mass firings and will be slow to rehire. Others say that the bankruptcy practice will soar and that lawyers will more regularly use teleconferencing technology to meet, depose, litigate and mediate.
I reached out to some of my “sheltering/billing at home” colleagues to ask how they are faring and for their predictions about how the practice will be different when this crisis ends.
Winston & Strawn’s powerhouse litigator Dan K. Webb bemoaned his legal life while the courthouses are closed. “There are no judges to fight or juries to convince.” Dan, have you thought about a hobby? Dan said, “The idea that you can successfully do Zoom depositions and mediations is a MYTH created to drive up Zoom’s stock price.” Despondent that he has no one to argue with and is forced to use Zoom, Dan darkly observed, “You might just as well hide under your covers at home and watch a legal drama such as the likes of Tiger King!” As I was trying to envision Dan Webb watching Tiger King, he added, “With a decent lawyer, the Tiger King would likely not be in jail.” Even when it comes to the big cats of cable, Dan Webb’s zealous desire to advocate cannot be caged.
Personal injury giant Robert A. Clifford told me that his 25 lawyers and 40 support staffers are still gainfully employed and working remotely, but that he fears newer firms may not have the wherewithal to survive the epidemic’s financial hits. During the crisis, Clifford Law Offices has been very successful in resolving cases through virtual mediations, which he calls “remarkably effective.” He predicts that remote work, and teleconferencing through Zoom, WebEx and Microsoft Teams will continue now that we all have the hang of it. And that 2020 will see very few jury trials because “potential jurors may not want to congregate with others in a courtroom, or take off more time from work.”
Environmental attorney E. Lynn Grayson, a partner at Nijman Franzetti LLP, believes these extraordinary times are allowing her to be more patient and kind to others and herself. “Being forced to change your routine and slow down encourages me to be a better listener personally and professionally.” What did you say? “It is also a good reminder that the health and well-being of family, friends and community are priorities.” How nice! Lynn is obviously taking a different approach than the Target shoppers I have witnessed diving on toilet paper rolls...
Criminal defense lawyer Joe “The Shark” Lopez does not know what to do with his energy. “I really miss the hustle and bustle of going to, from and between courthouses and then going for my $6 Starbucks. I am looking forward to going back to normal and just getting in the car and burning gas to Bridgeview.” Hmm. I am thinking of my normal: Dinner out in the Gold Coast... When asked about Zoom, Joe says he is not a fan. “It is awkward. You cannot ask your client questions during a hearing and it’s weird to talk to a screen with a judge wearing a mask.” Even stranger is that “...The public courtroom is available for viewing on YouTube.” After discussing whether one of Joe’s current drug dealer clients would be considered engaged in an “essential business,” we signed off but not before Joe told me that he was enjoying a late morning workout break, one of the perks of sheltering at home while fighting the good fight.
And finally, Faustin A. Pipal Jr., a part-time litigator and full-time mediator at Resolute Systems LLC, sees the remote practice as the wave of the future. “Investment-wise, I say go ‘long’ on pajama manufacturers, and ‘short’ on suit and tie makers.” Spoken like a true seer.
While I am not rushing to trade all of my pinstripes for PJs, I AM taking a seminar tomorrow on how to navigate the advanced Zoom video conference. Anyone care to join me?