We Can See the Bright Side, and We Keep Lawyering On
As we approach the end of the year, there is a lot to reflect on. As lawyers, we’ve been challenged by the tumultuous events of 2020 — from the lockdown to suddenly shifting toward remote work, to handling the unexpected stresses of a new reality in response to the pandemic. It has been a difficult time for society. For most of us, the health crisis has affected in multiple ways our loved ones, friends, and family.
Reflecting on my 20-circuit Virtual Town Halls, a listening tour that focused on helping Bar members cope with the pandemic and assisting with the profession’s recovery, I’ve observed the true resilience of Bar members throughout our state. While most of the meetings focus on how we as lawyers are managing the pandemic, how the judicial system is adapting, and the resources the Bar has made available to help in those efforts, at each meeting, I ask: What’s the best thing to come out of this?
In our profession, some have been hit harder than others, and we have all been shouldering a great deal of stress, but every single lawyer and judge at the town halls had something positive to add to the discussion. We did not completely shut down — like after hurricanes — and people are enthusiastic about that. We kept the momentum going, including welcoming the use of online remote technology for hearings. Lawyers who may have once frowned at the idea of working remotely learned they can still work hard from home for their clients and be there for their families. Some lawyers were grateful to spend more time with family and enjoy cooking and having meals with their kids. Many felt a newfound pride in the court system’s ability to adapt to evolving realities. Many participants said they learned to be more efficient, especially without having to spend so much time traveling to courthouses for quick hearings. Remote hearings also allow many lawyers to appear in multiple counties in a single day, which was not possible before. Others expressed satisfaction that the level of professionalism and cooperation between opposing parties improved during the pandemic, as it is hard to talk over someone in a videoconference.
Many lawyers simply expressed gratitude that as lawyers they are still able to earn a living when so many other professions were completely shut down or were severely limited by the pandemic. The courts and our offices may be somewhat limited, but we are open to serve our communities and ensure our clients get the due process they deserve.
We are handling the disappointment of our clients and our families, but we’ve become more flexible and efficient problem-solvers in these challenging times. No matter what happens, we can see the bright side and keep lawyering on.
The Bar’s 13-member COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force, led by President-elect Michael Tanner, has collected useful data and suggestions from the town halls and is working on a wide range of projects. One takeaway from the Virtual Town Halls for me is this: Human nature is incredible. I am proud to be a lawyer and to lead the 108,000 members of The Florida Bar at such a historic moment. We are powering through these times of great change. There is a silver lining, and we’re learning from this new collective experience. The future may never be the same, but we will move on to the next year, together, taking with us the good lessons we’ve learned along the way.