This piece is a list of suggestions and helpful solutions in order to help us, as a legal community, get through the tumultuous times, and ensure we are in the best possible position when this is all over (it will happen… I swear!).
Here we are. The vast majority of lawyers are working from home, trying to find a sense of normalcy in a world that changes by the hour (sometimes less). I always knew the legal industry would undergo a cataclysmic change, but never in my wildest thoughts did I envision a global pandemic would be the catalyst.
Let’s get one thing clear. There is no single-source rule book for how we, as a profession, undertake our role in the current circumstances. These are uncharted waters and we are all navigating them for the first time. Good luck!
But I firmly believe lawyers are smart and resourceful. They will find ways to provide services to clients and ensure the job gets done.
Even at times when we feel helpless as professionals, there are steps lawyers and law firms can take to ensure our industry makes it through this crisis:
Communicate with your clients: Ensure they are well accommodated. A simple phone call goes a long way to build goodwill. In times of uncertainty, “Hi, how are you?” shows concern and empathy. Find out what kind of support they need and offer your services, if you can.
Communicate with other lawyers: One big (normal) fear we may have is that other lawyers are farther along in their management of this crisis than we are. This can lead to uncertainty, anxiety, paranoia and doubt. Rest assured, every lawyer is feeling the stress and everyone is, to at least some degree, underprepared for a situation like this. Speaking with colleagues will not only help settle your thoughts, but may also introduce you to some novel solutions they have uncovered which can help your practice as well.
Explore what doesn’t work: What PAIN POINTS are you specifically feeling now when it comes to your ability to practice? What is not working and what needs fixing. What really grinds your gears when it comes to your practice? These might not be identified immediately, but over the coming weeks, begin to explore which processes are important and which are dead weight.
Take stock of your processes: Do a little process mapping. How were things done before the current health crisis? How are they done now? What can be improved and what was waste? Process mapping for different parts of your practice can help zero-in on areas that can be improved.
Take advantage of government resources: The federal and provincial governments have been providing capital for businesses and individuals. It is important to inform your clients about what’s available, but also determine if you or your firm is eligible. Find out if you are eligible for the Temporary Wage Subsidy (TWS), the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit program (CERB).
Don’t be afraid to push the envelope when it comes to novel ways to practice: Remember, above all else your duty is to provide service to your clients (in a safe, ethical and secure manner). Think outside the box and be a trailblazer!
Embrace the quiet: Lawyers are notoriously busy, always working on client deadlines (whether actual or self-imposed). Without a doubt, those times will return, guaranteed! But in the meantime, enjoy working fewer hours. Embrace a 9-5 work routine. Take an extended lunch at the kitchen table. Watch an episode of the Price is Right (it’s good for the soul!).
Take the time to be honest with yourself: Anxiety, nervousness and fear are human emotions. And although we sometimes work superhuman hours, we must find time to cope and express our emotions to ourselves and to others.
As lawyers, we are made to feel we have all the answers all the time. It’s alright to take a little bit of time to find the best approach to provide optimal service to your clients and yourself.
If you remember nothing else, remember Rule # 1: Stay healthy. The rest we can figure out together!