It’s been quite a year. COVID-19 struck. Then came Shelter in Place (SIP) orders. And then, for some people, the return-to-work phase in this changed landscape. Now that we have returned to the office, certain practice areas seem to be busier than others. Why? The way I see it, what is happening in my law firm is probably happening all over the country. Here are a few resources that matched my observations for 2020.
Shelter in Place (SIP):
March 14th came, and everyone went home – and some are still there. Working remotely presented new challenges for lawyers. How to appear in court? How to arrange depositions, initial consultations, client meetings, case management meetings? Much moved online and into virtual rooms. Even the way we network and socialize with friends, family, co-workers and organizations changed.
Day-to-day work communication moved from the phone and in-person interactions to email almost exclusively, and with that, there was an increase in spam and malicious emails. People had to keep a keen eye out to recognize toxic emails and phishing scams.
During SIP, we noticed an interesting trend: the quarantine led to an uptick in divorce. Since the return from SIP, Family Law has continued to be busy. SIP orders and anxiety about catching COVID-19 have exacerbated problems in marriages that were already strained. Family law attorneys are tackling issues like domestic violence and how to obtain temporary restraining orders.
Due to COVID-19, custody arrangements have become complicated – what if one parent is not careful about masks or where the parent takes the children and with whom? What recourse does the other parent have to protect the children – and themselves – from the possibility of infection from the less careful parent? It is hard work for lawyers and even harder work for those in the middle of the divorce.
Our Employment Law practice has had to address new problems created by the pandemic. What rights do employers and employees have during the shutdown? As an employee, if you are required to go to work, can you get hazard pay? Who gets it and why? How much paid sick leave is an employer required to pay, and what should an employee expect? What about parents who have to stay home to supervise children who are learning remotely? What does the law have to say about that kind of parental leave? In the eyes of employment law, who may expect what from whom?
And what about small businesses that cannot make lease payments because suddenly they have absolutely no income? What about those landlords who also suddenly have no income? Large companies have to answer questions that they never knew could exist before COVID-19.
I have been around the legal profession for a long time and here is what I see happening. A profession that has long had the reputation as one slow-to-change is adapting quickly to the demands of this distinctly crazy time. At the heart of these changes though, what I really see are many dedicated people working really, really hard to help one another - be it through divorce, loss of job and income, or business woes - and it is amazing and inspiring to witness.