A lot has happened this week, and all indications are that things could get worse before they get better. Below are some observations from the first of what may be many weeks of our new normal. Some of these are specific to attorneys and court closures, some are just general observations.
- A lot can be accomplished in six weeks. As of now, courts in Massachusetts will be impacted until at least May 1st. Public schools, colleges and a lot of other groups have similar timelines. There are a ton of possibilities no matter where you are or what you are interested in. This time is a gift! Take advantage of it! I started to make a list but it turns out I am a fountain of ideas, so I will make it a separate post. Our firm is using this time to make to systematize how we deliver services to clients so we can provide a great experience more effectively and consistently.
- Have a routine. A few days this week I have woken up just like I would if I was going about my normal day a few months ago. On those days, I was wildly more productive. I woke up, worked out, showered, got dressed and sat at my desk to work. On the other days, I rolled out of bed whenever I woke up, had coffee on the couch, watched the news, and wasted a few hours on my phone reading news or browsing ways to build an arsenal to defend against looters. Unsurprisingly, at the end of the “couch” days, I wasn't any better off than where I started.
- The Probate and Family Courts are still figuring things out. We have received calls about a handful of the hearings we had scheduled this week, but most were just to say the hearing would be rescheduled to a date after May 1, 2020. So far, I haven't heard of any hearings held by telephone or video conference. Maybe next week.
- People are still hiring lawyers. We have continued to bring on new clients this week as well as talk to prospective clients about their cases. The volume has slowed down a tiny bit, but at least for family law, people are still looking for assistance with custody, child support, and divorce. These things are ever-present, and there will probably be a big spike in divorces once people are stuck in the house together for six weeks. We will be ready! (see #1)
- A lot of lawyers aren't changing. Lawyers, in general, are not an adaptable bunch. I have spoken to two different prospective clients this week who told me they had contacted other attorneys and we were the only firm to either answer their call or get back to them. There is absolutely still legal work being done by attorneys, but it baffles me how any lawyer could be too busy to talk to a potential client. That has always baffled me, but even more so in the current environment.
- A lot of lawyers aren't changing (part 2). I have also heard from potential clients that attorneys are still asking them to come into their office for a consultation. Maybe that was earlier this week (which seems like ages ago) but attorneys should be able to engage with a client without a face-to-face meeting. Even before social distancing, a lot of clients hired us just based on a phone call. We send them an agreement to sign electronically, they can make payments electronically, we share documents with them electronically, there has never been a requirement for an in-person meeting. We have definitely met many prospective clients in our office, but only if it was convenient for them.
- Try to have normal meals. I am a little embarrassed to admit I have already gained 10 pounds in less than 10 days. My nightly ice cream addiction has come back hard, and it feels like we have stockpiled enough Oreos to last a few years. My goal for next week is to get back to a normal diet and limit ice cream to maybe every other night. But that is for next week, I wouldn't want to rock the boat heading into a weekend.
All in all, this has been an interesting week, but I have a feeling the novelty of social distancing will wear off quickly. The best thing you can do is keep your distance, wash your hands, and just be nice to people.