My Dear Friends, My Colleagues, My Mentors, My Adversaries,
To everyone who has walked through law school towards the rarified profession of law. Those who have donned the white hat of justice and entered a field that is so rigorously depended upon by society. Fellow ministers of justice, I want to sound the alarm: the legal profession is changing, for the better.
My friends, we have lived through, practiced through, and been educated through a time unlike any other in our modern history. With the start of a global pandemic, lawyers left their offices, their conference rooms, and the courtroom, to set up their computers… on the kitchen table… in a spare bedroom… in a corner of the house. We purchased webcams, noise-canceling headphones, and an exorbitant number of sweatpants in suit pant colors. We stepped away from the traditional world and retreated into this seemingly temporary virtual world. As the virtual world continued and persisted, many of us have experienced anxiety and uncertainty, but many of us have also found that our lives feel more balanced working from home, the courtroom feels less imposing over a screen, or our abilities as an employee, partner, parent, or family member find more balance.
After the pandemic ceases and things return to “normal,” I have a request. All of those in pursuit of this incredible profession or already practicing, remember the lessons that you have learned in this world. We’ve sat on Zoom calls together; we’ve seen the interior of each other’s homes; we’ve met your pets as they’ve traversed your video screen (unwelcome of course!), and we’ve seen your children in the background or interrupting a call. These things, this perspective, and this intimate knowledge of each other are such gifts. In a profession that focuses on the adversarial process and that often rewards hardness, I ask you to find some softness to show each other. When we are across the counsel table or in a heated negotiation, remember that Zoom setting. Remember seeing our pets, children, or family members who interrupted our conversation. If we keep this perspective, we see each other not as attorneys or adversaries, but as individuals. When we interact, step back into that virtual world. Advocate for your clients, but preserve relationships; strike a deal while solving a combined problem; administer justice while showing fairness and flexibility.
As new lawyers stepping into the legal field for the first time, we face unique challenges, seek out experienced mentorship, and learn something new each day. While that is a worthwhile and necessary part of beginning practice, we can also use our fresh eyes to gain perspective on our chosen profession. We can help see the parts of our career that could be better balanced or the access to justice that technology can provide.
While your voice is still new, use yours to help highlight how your experience with online platforms can benefit the practice holistically. These opportunities can help improve access to justice and court systems, encourage open communication between advocates, and help the work-life balance issues that are so prevalent in the legal field. It’s important to use your voice and your perspective as a new lawyer to help incorporate these advantages, transition your individual practice of law to a more sustainable place, and set your career up for longevity and satisfaction.
This profession is challenging, rewarding, and incredible. No matter if you are new to the practice of law or a seasoned attorney, take a step back and assess the wonderful work you are doing, the benefit you confer on your community and practice, and appreciate your role as a minister of justice.
Our profession is changing. We are moving toward a society that values more time at home, cherishes togetherness, and provides better access to courts and representation through a virtual platform. Let’s change with it. Let’s take those lessons of flexibility and put them into practice. Most importantly, let’s be the first person to speak up and tell your colleague they are on mute. Together, with these lessons, and a shift in perspective, we can change the trajectory of the legal profession and change lives in the process.
About the Author
Casey Strong is a recent law school graduate who lives in Michigan with her husband, dog, and cats, and practices at Vlachos & Vlachos, P.C., a law firm serving southwest Michigan.