What effect has Covid-19 had on the practice of law?

Law firms are typically based on tradition. They are not usually on the cutting edge of technology. In fact, for most people the image of a successful attorney is one sitting behind a broad, sturdy, century-old desk, with a wall of law books as the backdrop.

But the pandemic has forced firms to move rapidly into the 21st century. Many firms have upgraded their hardware and software, and greatly improved their virtual meeting capacity and cyber security.

Some areas of law have seen an uptick

When the pandemic first hit many of us believed things would slow- or shut down. We did not think that the housing market would jump, leading to an uptick in residential real estate cases, or that people would be moving jobs, prompting an increase in labor and employment legal services.

It seemed counterintuitive to think that during a time of such unknowns people would seek out change. But the pandemic caused many people to consider their own mortality, thus, estate planning services saw growth. Real estate and bankruptcy attorneys were busier than they had been in previous years. Due to the more ubiquitous use of online sales, intellectual property attorneys also had their hands full.

Lastly, in September of 2021 Cedars-Sinai reported that alcohol consumption rose 14% by adults over 30 and saw a 41% increase in heavy drinking by women. The Cedars-Sinai report noted that dealing with a lot of unknowns increases our stress to an intolerable level.

Those who practice criminal defense recognized this trend. Somewhat surprising, is that when there are fewer people on the roads speeds go up, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit that represents the highway safety of the states.  In states such as Colorado, Nebraska, Indiana and Utah police report driver speeds of over 100 mph.

Not working at the firm; what is missed? what is not?

Surveys of attorneys in New York have found that they have not felt the pandemic and alternative working arrangements (such as working from home) have had a negative impact on productivity. They also did not feel there was a decline in client service.

What was missed, as reported in the study by the New York State Bar Association,  was the “collaborative and collegial aspects” of physically working with other attorneys. The study also provided insight into what attorneys found they missed and did not miss at the office. Overall they liked the flexibility that working from home or a home office offered. They missed the mentoring that being physically at the firm provides. That, and, the sense of humor that lawyers apparently have.

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