The pandemic and its effects have dramatically affected the practice of law and will undoubtedly continue to to have a long-term impact on how legal work is conducted in the years to come. For lawyers, it hasn’t always been easy navigating the practice of law during a worldwide pandemic. Remote working and the isolation it brings has taken its toll, as has learning new skillsets, whether it’s using new remote working technologies or figuring out how to best advocate for your clients virtually. While it’s unclear how many of these changes will persist post-pandemic, it’s evident that things won’t ever be quite the same, and lawyers seeking to thrive in the post-pandemic world will need to be flexible and adaptable.
Fortunately, there’s a new report issued by the ABA Coordinating Group on Practice Forward that will help guide lawyers through what’s ahead of us. This report was published a few weeks ago and is designed to increase understanding about both the impact of the pandemic on the practice of law and predictions about the future of the legal profession.
The Report, Practicing Law in the Pandemic and Moving Forward: Results and Best Practices from a Nationwide Survey of the Legal Profession, was based on input from 4,200 ABA members “from all geographic areas, practice settings, sizes of firms, corporations, and organizations, levels of experience, age, family status, races and ethnicities, types of gender identity, and types of disabilities.” The results cover a broad overview of topics ranging from the impact of the pandemic on the legal profession to post-pandemic expectations and recommendations for both legal employers and individual lawyers.
There’s lots of useful data in this Report which is why I’m writing a 3-post series about some of the results of this survey. In the first post I discussed statistics about the long-term effects of the pandemic on the practice of law. Then in last week’s post I focused on survey findings relating to best practices for legal employers moving forward. Today I’m covering recommendations made in the Report that will help individual lawyers find success in the “new normal.”
Set and enforce boundaries
First and foremost, the authors of the Report recommend that lawyers working remotely set realistic expectations for themselves and others. An important part of this task involves negotiating boundaries at both at work and at home. Lawyers working remotely should make sure to clearly communicate “office hours” to others and make it a point to stick to them. According to the authors, by doing so, it’s easier to separate work from your home life:
If you are receiving numerous assignments after normal office hours or are asked to respond to phone calls and emails at all hours of the day, evenings, and weekends, try to set boundaries with your supervising attorney or client. Enlist sponsors or other colleagues to help devise an approach that will not be viewed negatively.
Stay Visible with Clients, Partners, and Other Lawyers in the Firm, and in the Legal Community
Because working remotely can be isolating, it’s important for lawyers to take proactive steps to stay connected with both clients and work colleagues. Virtual “face time” is just as important as in-office interaction, especially when everyone is working remotely. That’s why the Report’s authors recommend that lawyers take steps to stay on the virtual radar of the people who are key to their success in the here and now and in the future:
Reach out to clients to see how they are doing, and ask if you can be of assistance. Inquire as to whether clients have a particular area where they might like to receive more information. Reach out to mentors and sponsors. Think of partners and other lawyers in your firm as your clients with whom to check in, ask for work, or offer to write an article or newsletter.
Be Pro-Active About Your Career
Another key step for lawyers to take in order to lay the foundation for future success is to make decisions that will ensure the ability to grow their practices and adapt to the post-pandemic world. That’s why one of the recommendations in the Report is that lawyers take steps to understand how the pandemic has impacted the practice of law overall and how their specific areas of practice will be affected. Once that has been done, the next step is to pivot and take on practice areas that are more likely to be in demand when the pandemic recedes. The authors explain that concept as follows:
Now may be a good time to identify and become involved in new practice areas that are developing. More senior lawyers may want to consider taking advantage of an early retirement program and assess other lifestyle changes and opportunities.
For more information on taking that step and adding new practice areas, make sure to check out this recent blog post: Discover New Practice Areas That Can Scale.
Take Care of Yourself
Last, but not least, self care is paramount in the here and now, and will only increase in importance in the post-pandemic world. The past year has been an incredibly challenging one, and as a result, wellness has taken center stage. The authors explain that because the legal profession has historically high rates of depression, substance abuse, and suicide, prioritizing wellness should take center stage as lawyers move forward into the “new normal””
These have been stressful and difficult times and it is important to take steps to promote your own resilience. Get exercise. Try to avoid catastrophizing, sending your thoughts spiraling into worst case scenarios. If you find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, stress, loneliness, drinking or substance abuse, do not hesitate to seek out assistance.
In closing, those are just a few useful tips to help you prepare for the practice of law on the other side of the pandemic. While we may not know exactly what to expect, lawyers can nevertheless take proactive steps to ensure success, prosperity, and happiness in the months and years to come.
The advice in this report is a great place to start, and for even more tips to help you prepare for success in the future, whatever it may bring, make sure to download this free guide: How to Stay Productive Through COVID-19 (And Beyond) – An Attorney’s Guide.