I have been derelict in updating this blog most of this summer, despite the promise to myself that I’d have fresh and exciting new content every 10-14 days and quick hits in between. Of course, when I made that promise to myself it was October 2019.
And I do have a bunch of half-written entries and prompts floating around, ranging from a February piece-in progress on the illusion of work-life balance (which, to be fair is still an illusion now, except I’m not writing about those weird feet-on-the-beach pictures or Bar events anymore) to three lines in an entry titled: “So It’s Come To This: The Ethics of Using Mail in 2020.” But it’s been hard to see things to completion and publication.
That’s because everything is hard, and it’s been hard. Before I began writing this entry, I looked for “dumpster fire,” (with apologies to the Dempster brothers) “unpleasant situation,” and “everything sucks” pictures in Squarespace’s database and came up empty. I had to settle on a “thumbs down,” though I admit being tempted by a few middle finger pictures. (My employer graciously sponsors this blog and while I can get away with many things, I’m not going to try that.)
Even five months into all of this, work and everything else seems to take longer. It’s not just mail (and I will write that entry at some point). Even as I’ve adapted my commute from a drive up the Hoan Bridge to a stumble down my upstairs hallway, I’ve not managed to find the same efficiencies in doing my actual work. My Webcam doesn’t like transitions between main and breakout rooms in Zoom, and didn’t want to cooperate with Google Meet at all last week.
And, frankly, for many of us there’s a weird disconnect between the work we’re doing and the world outside. We’re expected to work diligently and competently on our cases, regardless of any elephant in the room (be it the fact that civil jury trials aren’t likely to resume anytime soon in many jurisdictions, or a toddler needing help with the potty in the middle of a video hearing). Meanwhile, the world is on fire and we don’t know when or how it’s going to end or, really, what to do. Commitment to racial justice is a necessary step, and it shouldn’t be controversial or “you said this blog Wasn’t About Politics” to say Black Lives Matter, but it’s insufficient. There are wildfires in some states, hurricanes in others, and coronavirus is still rampant everywhere, too much to link, even if Milwaukee seems to be getting things under control, for now. We are a little more than two months from the federal election, and because this blog Isn’t About Politics, that’s all I’m going to say about that, except if you are a partner-type in a position to do so, now is a good time to make sure all of your employees who are eligible to vote can take time to do so if they need to do so in person on election day (Wisconsin requires employers to give their employees up to three hours off for voting; your state’s laws may vary but there is no state that prohibits employers from allowing their employees to take time off for voting).
School starts for much of Wisconsin this coming Tuesday; for us (in the Milwaukee Public Schools district) it means everything is online, at least for the next 6 to 9 weeks. My kid is a rising fifth grader and we’ve set up a study space in his room, which is next to my home office. He’s got a schedule from 9-4, with at least three or four non-consecutive period of online “synchronous” learning where he’s expected to have the camera on, plus small group work, one-on-one with the teacher or paraprofessional, and independent study, all of which is subject to change and all of which he is expected to keep track of. I am a grown adult, largely in charge of my own schedule, and with a computerized calendar to yell at me and tell me it’s time for my next appointment, and I find days where I have 3-4 phone or Zoom appointments particularly exhausting, because there’s usually not enough time in between for me to concentrate on anything. This is going to be rough on the ‘tween set (where they don’t have any say in their schedule), and their parents who may still have to work full time or more around this.
It hasn’t started yet and I’m already tired.
I could write about Arizona allowing nonlawyers to own law firms (the first state in the nation to do this). I could write about the ethics of Zoom trials. I could write about the sheer hell 2020 grads are being put through with some states forcing in-person bar exams, and some trying untested remote exams plagued with malfunctions, and some states just postponing the exam at the eleventh hour (literally, via an 11 pm email).
And I should write about those things. I’ve written about some of those things, and will write about things of substance again. But right now, it’s all hard.
This may seem whiny and self-indulgent, and maybe it is. But lawyers, as a general rule, don’t like to talk about these things. We like to reassure everyone that it’s business as usual, with a few new twists. It’s as though we’ve internalized our duties of competence and diligence to mean that we need to project an air that everything is fine.
But I think we are better lawyers when we acknowledge that we’re also human, and things are hard and weird right now. That doesn’t mean we should slack on our work or scoff at that people-fighting-over-money-they-can-afford-to-lose case because even though, in the grand scheme of things, it may not mean much to the world, it means a lot to the people. But we should normalize acknowledging the hard and the weird, being understanding amid the chaos when others are struggling, and also seeking help when we need it.