General Litigation

We’re Returning to Normal. But What If I’m Not Ready?

I was a guy in the courthouse halls you wanted to run into. I liked to chat people up; tell a joke or quick war story; ask for and give advice on a case, a judge, etc. As we are coming out of the pandemic with courts returning to live in-person appearances you would think I would be excited to get back to it but to be honest, I have very mixed feelings about it.

Although I am a social person, I have always known that I am also very happy to be by myself or in the company of just my wife and family. The pandemic has greatly exaggerated that part of my personality. I thrived in the pandemic. Here’s my top things I liked about the lockdown:

1. Learned Zoom and Microsoft Teams, so connecting with others and courts remotely was not a problem.

2. I became much more organized and efficient due to the down-time.

3. I had over 100 pending requests for help on wrongful conviction cases (some as old as two years) that I was able to finally respond to.

4. I was able to devote significant time to my pending cases (wrongful conviction and otherwise) and really connect with my clients, who I had more time to call and follow up with.

5. Things started on time. In live court, 930am calendar call usually meant 1015-11AM. Sometimes longer if your adversary was stuck in traffic a or in another courtroom and you had to find them and chase them down. In ZoomLand, if you were not on the screen within 15 minutes, they either postponed it or stared without you.

6. No commuting. My office is only two miles from my house so I’m not talking about that. I mean commuting to court. It would not be unusual to spend two hours in the car or train for a fifteen minute conference. Now that conference takes – fifteen minutes.

7. I was able to help my clients in different ways. I am litigator so I usually only get called when someone is sued or wants to sue. But clients were calling me to help them with PPP loans; or forming new LLCs as they changed their business model to adjust to the pandemic; we did a lot more trademark applications; etc.

8. I spent much more time with my wife and family (some of whom quarantined with us).

9. Having breakfast outside in my yard, with my dog, my coffee and the NY Times crossword. Much easier to do this way than folded in thirds, sitting or more likely standing on an crowded LIRR car or subway.

10. Overall, it was just a more relaxed, slow-paced existence that I have come to enjoy. I used to look sideways at lawyers on Long Island who worked out of their houses, wondering how could they do it? Don’t they want a nice office with a conference room, etc.? Don’t they just want to have some space between their work and home life? Now I think What took me so long?

Sure I like to argue, but why can’t I do it via Zoom!!

My office is reopening June 1 to fully staffed, in-person. Its funny that my law partner who is much more the loner, keep to himself type person than I am tells me he is dying to get back to live court. He misses the interactions, the conversations, the general camaraderie. Who’da thunk? This pandemic has made us appreciate parts of our personalities that that were not expressed or which were overshadowed by our dominant traits. So I am not sure how I will deal with this “return to normal.” Of course, having lost friends to covid, and having had family members who were made very ill by it, I am glad it is coming to an end. But I know it will be a struggle to get back how it was before. I know I will be reluctant to lose some of the benefits I have obtained from this past year-plus. And I hope courts and counsel keep some of the very good things to have come from remote lawyering, because I am sure not ready to give them up.

Follow me on Twitter @oscarmichelen

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