The obvious news of the day—and for the foreseeable future—is COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that the World Health Organization recently declared a global pandemic. The legal profession is facing many of the same disruptive forces confronting virtually all sectors of the economy (though there has been some uptick in demand for certain types of legal services and expertise). Major law firms have canceled, postponed, or altered partner retreats. Lawyers are billing hours worked from home. In-house lawyers are increasingly squeezed by a spike in their organizations’ need for their counsel and services to navigate the crisis on the one hand, and government demands and expert public health advice to adhere to social distancing practices and even shelter-in-place orders on the other.
Lawyers across the country and world are jointly trying to grapple with the new normal as it is reestablished again and again and again. Encouragingly, many throughout the profession are proactively recognizing and emphasizing the importance of maintaining mental health and well-being in the time of COVID-19. The American Bar Association, for one, has created a webpage of mental health resources in light of the virus and its societal effects. Law firms, such as Mintz Levin, are offering additional guidance at the intersection of mental health and COVID-19. The ABA Journal also recently spoke with Bree Buchanan, president of the ABA’s Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, about some strategies lawyers might employ to deal with COVID-19 anxiety.
Many throughout the profession are proactively recognizing and emphasizing the importance of maintaining mental health and well-being in the time of COVID-19.
Elsewhere one can find broader guidance to navigating anxiety and finding balance during the pandemic. CNN.com offers some fairly comprehensive tips for managing information overload, among other useful mental health advice. For workplaces shifting to remote work, Heidi Gardner, distinguished fellow at the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, offers some strategies to stay productive while being mindful of the various disruptions impacting workers’ lives—strategies that include spelling out goals and roles, emphasizing social interaction, and normalizing new work environments.
The new normal is being redefined every day, and there is no telling what forms the long-term impacts of the pandemic will take. Going forward, the profession will need to carefully think through what lessons to extract from this current crisis, including and how to adapt to a changed reality. As these developments unfold, The Practice will continue to gather insight on what comes next for the legal profession.