If your plan is to hunker down, wait until COVID is history, and then resume practicing law like you always have, you need a different plan.
The pandemic has permanently changed the profession – and if you don’t adapt, you’ll be left behind.
“Things are never going to be the same as they were,” writes law professor Heidi K. Brown in the ABA Journal.“Instead of trying to cling to business as usual in these unusual times, let’s experiment with a broader range of techniques.”
One COVID consequence: remote work, e-consults and Zoom meetings will make practicing law more hospitable for lawyers with young children and those who are shy or quiet by nature, says Professor Brown.
One thing that will be the same tomorrow as it is today is Lawyers Mutual’s promise to be there for our insured firms. Our email newsletter “Practice Reimagined” offers timely tips, pointers and valuable links to help you navigate the new normal.
4 COVID-Induced Trends That are Likely Here to Stay
In her ABA Journal piece, Professor Brown says every aspect of the profession – from how we educate law students to how we meet with clients – is in a process of transformation.
Here are four key changes she highlights:
- Zoom is changing how we communicate – for the better. “As an introvert who resists being put on the spot and interrupting others to be heard, I rejoiced at discovering Zoom features such as ‘chat’ and virtual hand-raising,” Brown writes. “I have wondered—for 26 years—why we don’t conduct lawyering activities such as depositions, negotiations and oral arguments in a less disruptive fashion rather than the usual riot of interruptions in which the loudest voices often reign.”
- Our definition of “legal talent” is changing. “The institutions that will survive—and thrive—will reject outdated hierarchies and systems that continually attract and promote the same people,” she writes. “Sustainable entities will seek out and champion nontraditional talents and skills. Past interviews for law jobs focused on GPAs, traditional law school accolades and applicants’ gift of gab. Once hired, those employees who excelled at office face time and racked up maximum billable hours won plaudits from performance evaluators. It’s time to let go of systems, hierarchies and performance metrics that do not serve the profession or society. Instead, we must consider and invest in previously undervalued and overlooked individual and collective strengths.” Among the qualities that will be most highly valued: creativity; adaptability to both traditional and nontraditional work environments; openness and flexibility; being able to work from home without missing a beat; excellent written and oral communication skills; and the ability to “focus and produce high-quality and timely work, independently and unsupervised.”
- How we educate law students is changing. “In the past few months, experts at multiple levels of education have reported anecdotally that many quiet students are engaging more readily in remote learning,” Brown writes. “As a researcher of how traditional models of legal education already underserve introverted, naturally quiet and shy students, I yearn for this crisis to inspire an evolution in legal education.”
- Our ideas about professional well-being are changing. “Serious well-being initiatives are as essential as oxygen,” she writes. “Now, it’s even more clear that a conversation about and a strategic plan to address the mental, physical and emotional health of all members of our legal communities, including our administrative support teams, is essential. Continuing to shelter at home, striving to be productive and keep businesses going, many employees and colleagues [wrestle] with trauma, fear, anxiety, loss, pain, depression and grief…. The legal institutions that give serious thought to this reality and go all in on building infrastructures to support the mental, physical and emotional health of every member of their communities will rise up, impenetrable. Those who don’t will collapse.”
Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers add purpose, profits and peace of mind to their practices. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.