COVID-19 hits lawyers at their core


By John Allison 

Lawyers are trained to analyze situations and develop plans that take foreseeable contingencies into account. We have grown accustomed to being able to plan ahead. 

The COVID-19 pandemic uprooted the most thoughtful plans and dramatically changed the way law is being practiced. Lawyers in many parts of the country are working remotely. Trials are postponed. Courts are changing the way judicial services are provided. Depositions and mediations take place by videoconference or teleconference. Some law firms are struggling financially. 

While the future is not known, it seems life will not return to the predictable “normal” of the past.

How can lawyers, schooled in the predictable, deal well with this level of uncertainty?  A good starting point is to return to basics and prioritize what’s really important. 

Consider these questions:

- What are your core strengths as a lawyer? 

- What motivates you to practice of law?

- What do you need to do to take care of yourself?

- What do you need to do to take care of your family members?

Your answers to these questions will help you focus on your top priorities and let go of less important activities that drain your energy.

Next, recognize that being forced to deal with profound uncertainty is particularly stressful for lawyers. It is essential to find ways to reduce your stress level. Being in a state of chronic stress weakens the immune system. 

If you are caught up in the emotions of stress, such as fear and anxiety, your ability to find creative solutions for your situation will be inhibited.  Make time to engage in activities that bring you joy.  Take time outs to play.

Changes in the practice of law as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are essentially beyond our control. Being adaptable is the key to navigating change.

For example, when using a videoconference or teleconference platform for conducting meetings, take the time to make sure the platform has features to preserve the confidentiality of client information. Also, when the pandemic is over, be open to considering the possibility of using these platforms to avoid the time and expense associated with in-person meetings. 

Finally, if the financial consequences of the pandemic make it necessary for you to change where you practice law, look for a new place to practice that is compatible with your top priorities.     

John Allison is a professional career coach backed by years of experience as a successful lawyer. He is the founder of The Coach for Lawyers and author of "The Art of Practicing Law: A Practical Guide for Lawyers."