So. We’ve been at this for a year. A year.

A year ago, my colleagues and I sat around the conference table, trying to parse what health authorities were saying and what it might mean for law practice generally and our work specifically.  We discussed what would happen if people needed to quarantine, and whether we should make sure everyone was set up to receive email remotely, or what might happen in a worst-case scenario, if we had to shut down for a few weeks.

We all know how that ended up.

A year later, most of us are still working at home at least some of the time, and whether we’re sitting in our offices or in our bedrooms, we’re attending CLE and hearings and meetings via Zoom (though I’m wondering—are people still making a point of working in their pajamas?). Courts have opened up some, but it’ll be months to years before everything is “normal,” whatever that means.

I suppose here is where I should talk about “lessons learned.”

The American Bar Association and Wisconsin both recently released opinions on remote work, which will hopefully continue after COVID restrictions abate for those of use who do work better from home. My nerd friend Trish Rich and her colleague Calon Russell (who I haven’t met but perhaps once APRL meets in person again I will) have a good rundown of the ABA opinion. The main takeaway from their piece is that decisions about remote work, particularly those pertaining to information security, need to be made on a “practice-specific and client-specific” basis.

Relatedly, I hope if you are a manager type you’ve realized that a good number of your staff may actually be more productive with remote work and that should continue after pandemic restrictions ease. I hope when it’s safe for everyone to work in person, whenever that is, we don’t return to a culture where face time is valued above productivity and going to work sick is an unwritten requirement or even a point of pride.

Unfortunately, over the last year, I’ve confirmed what I’ve long suspected—I am not one of those people who is more productive with full-time remote work. I’ve made do, but it remains difficult. Work-life balance is illusory when you live at work and your kids are attending school from your workplace-slash-home.

And, also, pandemic brain is a thing, folks. I’ve said this before, but thank goodness for support staff. The virtual-work opinions talk about challenges involved in supervising non-lawyer assistants while working remotely, but from here, they’ve done a bang-up job keeping things moving and organized. Meanwhile I can start writing something, get distracted and start looking up Les Miserables flash mobs on YouTube, reminisce to myself about what malls were like even though I didn’t like them before, then start online shopping for shoes in anticipation of having places to wear them again, and suddenly it’s an hour later. Only an hour, if I’m lucky. I’ve gotten my work done and done well, but a year later it still may be at weird hours and in weird increments.

I’ve been asked why I put stuff like this out there—what if clients see it? What if you’re an expert witness and this gets pulled out in a deposition? Well, so what? It’s a publicly accessible snark blog where I make fun of goat-insulters and infringing unicorns. Surely publishing “hey even though we’ve been fortunate health-wise and I still have a job this pandemic hasn’t been a picnic” won’t make or break that cross-exam (and if it does, this profession really, really needs to reconsider what’s important). I put this out there to normalize it: you can be a competent, ethical lawyer, at any stage in your career, in any practice area, and still be a human being who did not find significant meaning in slowing down and appreciating the small things in life. (Nope, still don’t speak throw pillow.)

There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel—the pace of vaccination is picking up, and lawyers (and everyone else) will soon be eligible if they’re not already. We do need to remember that When This Is Over (whatever that looks like), we will have emerged from a lengthy international trauma and not everyone is going to snap back to “normal,” right away, or possibly ever. I’ll address that in future posts, but for now—if you’re still struggling, it’s OK to not be OK, and to get help if you need it.