When the COVID-19 health restrictions kicked in back in March, I was at the beginning of a career transition from articling student to practicing lawyer. Suddenly, I was thrust into the world of working from home. Like others who had the privilege of this arrangement, I instantly experienced a host of anxieties. In addition to general worries about the virus, I was concerned about how I was going to be able to meet my client’s needs equipped with just a laptop and a second monitor set up on a fold-out table in my bedroom. 

I’m a big believer in finding the silver lining along with valuable life lessons when faced with tough times. It turns out, the situation around this pandemic delivered on these fronts. There have been highlights and struggles this past couple of months, but I’m certain that I will carry what I’ve learned with me into my future practice.

Before I share my experience, I  want to acknowledge that I do not have children. When listening to parents about how the closure of schools and daycares is impacting their lives, I appreciate that the struggles of working from home while parenting multiply. In addition to doing your job, you are expected to fill the role of educator,  stay-at-home parent, and be the social centre of your child’s life. I have a deep respect for parents living through this crisis and I’m sending you all a high five for your grit.

The Technology of Working from Home

We are fortunate to be dealing with this pandemic in the age of unprecedented connectivity. For those of us who are privileged with access, the Internet has made communicating in business infinitely easier thanks to video conferencing platforms, cloud-based file sharing, and an array of other tools. 

When we crash-landed into the new reality of remote work, I along with most of my colleagues and clients, had to get up to speed using technology in ways we had never imagined. But, by sourcing user-friendly tools, I’ve become more accessible and efficient in my communication with clients. I can now offer my clients many more options for how to best serve them. My new skills will serve me well in my future practice.

Online Learning Opportunities

One of my favourite silver linings of self-isolation is how many organizations have made online training, webinars, and classes available at reduced costs. From professional skills development using live social media classrooms to yoga sessions, the opportunities to learn have been almost overwhelming. 

All the Evans Family Law lawyers are trained in collaborative practice, so I jumped at the chance to take the first training offered online. It was a great experience. Not only was I able to learn from professionals all over Ontario, Canada, and the US  from the comfort of my home, the training also included learning ways to adapt the collaborative process to an online forum. 

Being Kind to Myself and Others

There have definitely been days working from home when I have felt stressed. Not only have I been concerned about the health and safety of everyone around me, but I was also worried about my work performance. I’m going through the transition from articling student to lawyer in a time when normal has been taken out from under my feet. Fortunately, our firm has adapted to working remotely by increasing monthly office meetings and dedicated check-ins. This contact has helped everyone to be mindful of each other’s circumstances and accommodating of fellow team members’ needs.  

I’ve also learned to allow myself the space to process my feelings of fear. There has been such a sudden shift in the world and how we do things, that it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of trying to maintain the status quo without allowing in the feelings of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.

By learning to process my emotions, I have also learned to be kind to myself and to others around me. I’ve had to embrace finding new ways to ground myself when my usual support systems were not physically at hand. Checking in with myself regularly helps me to remember that as long as I’m doing my best to keep myself and my loved ones safe, figuring out ways to adapt and cope with the feelings of certainty, and showing empathy to others, things are going to work out.

Looking Ahead

It’s hard to wrap your head around what the future will look like when there is still so much uncertainty around COVID-19.

In one of the collaborative practice training sessions I took, the instructor remarked that we can look at the pandemic as a lesson in empathy for what our family law clients go through at the time of separation. Right now, during this global shift, we all feel fearful and uncertain about what the future holds in a way that mirrors our clients’ struggles post-separation. I’m going to make an effort to remember this experience as a tool for empathy going forward in my practice.

Will working from home become a more common thing? Some experts believe it will. With an investment in remote work infrastructure and training, I can see the benefits that working from home can bring. I, for one, am looking forward to how I can best use this new way of working to help my clients in the future.

By Alyssa Bird

If you have questions about this post or collaborative law in general, contact me today at abird@evansfamilylaw.ca.