A solo practitioner friend of mine recently observed that in our business we get used to adversity, adjustment and change. Nobody could be "ready" for the disruptions of a pandemic, but the point was well taken.....we made adjustments and were not paralyzed with fear and stress.
As the year ends, I made a little list of lessons learned (or prior lessons reinforced) from practicing in a pandemic. Here it is.....
Leave yourself some other options. Prior to the lockdown, I had a profitable per-diem court appearance business. I maintained one private practice area, probate and estates, because it was interesting and I felt more like a "real lawyer" when I did it. After a month of lock-down I saw that not only was the per-diem biz shut down, it wasn't coming back and was essentially out of business. Losing 70% of my income was hard, but I had alternatives to work with, so I looked at what needed to be done. I used ALL the lessons below, and a few new ones, to do something new: have the probate practice stand on its own AND be a lawyer who helps other lawyers and law students be happier and more successful.
Appreciate what you have, see reality and be aware of opportunities. Doing this requires one main thing.....PERSPECTIVE!
Perspective is powerful. It enables you to ask questions like "What do I REALLY want to do?" "What opportunities are out there where I could make a difference?" "How do I want to be remembered?" "How long will my working career be?" and "What can I do to be happier in my work and personal life?" The answers are not nearly as important as the thoughts the questions elicit.
Patience is a virtue. Answers don't come instantly. Perspective permits the time to think, and try, and adjust.
Tech has powerful tools. The tools that can help are worth learning. They are worth asking about. I don't care so much about fancy things that may interest others. But if a tool will help ME, I will accept a reasonable learning curve and acquire the skills.
Clarity in all communications, with all people, is a premium skill. It requires vigilance and attention and it's worth the effort. Perspective led me to see this was a past weakness. Thankfully it's easily improved with attention.
Working in blocks of time on priority projects is the way to go. Calls on the fly, interruptions, multi-tasking, and busy work are all traps. The solutions are limitless, if you want solutions to all these, they are right there.
Consider and accept where others are coming from. You can't control it so you might as well just SEE it. All we can actually control is ourselves, and I've come to accept that this is a "one day at a time" proposition. A daily morning guided meditation really helps with this. To any of my lawyer friends who think this is too weird or "not for me" or too esoteric, I urge you to have the perspective to have an open mind and try this. Doing this every morning has been life changing. If you want to kick this around in an open-minded, non-judgmental way, please message me.
A little observation about something that used to bug me to distraction: The "powers that be" don't care about us lawyers in practice. This includes law schools, the court system, bar associations, politicians, and lawyers at big firms. This used to bother me, but during the pandemic I decided to stop resenting and just SEE it as part of our world. I then saw the real irony, which is, as much as none of these groups care about us, they expect us to care about them!
I wish all my friends health and happiness and perspective for the New Year! To all law students, lawyers, paralegals, and people who work with lawyers (or care about us), we are part of a community that is a good and important part of a civilized society.
May we support and respect each other and know the value of our community!!!