As a lawyer who is brand new to running a freelance business from home, I notice a comforting solidarity with our whole profession. Responding to COVID-19, we are all in a place where we have been forced to change, adapt, and embrace new ways of working and living. To varying degrees, we are all in the throes of transition.
Rigidity is a common lawyer characteristic. It is easy to rely on checklists, guidelines, policies, and tried-and-true advice. We expect that these formulas will achieve the intended result because we followed a ‘plan.’ Sometimes, however, we realize that there is no pre-charted course forward from where we are. This is true for most of us right now. We have to figure things out as we go. How do we do that? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Acknowledge the Negatives
It is difficult to embrace change when we are focussed on all the negatives that change has caused, but we do have to process our losses. There are likely real downsides to COVID-induced changes. Perhaps you have experienced loss of income, extra work, loneliness, health anxieties, a steep learning curve with new processes, and difficulties while working from home.
Grant yourself permission to grieve your losses. It is helpful to largely focus on the positives, but we know it is counter-productive to repress our negative emotions. This is an unprecedented time. It is understandable to struggle. Only when we have acknowledged our struggles can we move forward. If you feel like you are drowning, stop to calmly reflect on why you are feeling down. If this reflection is easier while accompanied by a pint of ice cream, a glass of wine, a run, or a bubble bath, indulge (responsibly, of course). Consider this a break-up with life as you know it. You have certainly waded through adversity before, and you will triumph again!
2.Focus on the Positives
So, you have allowed yourself a brief pity party. It is time to move on. There are things to be grateful for, and I am sure some of them might be COVID-related too. For me, I have enjoyed more time with my husband. With less running around in the evenings and weekends, we have had time to learn to bake bread, read books, garden, enjoy our neighbourhood, and obsessively watch a few law enforcement TV dramas. I have reconnected on a heart-level with things I took for granted, like long visits with friends and going to church. I have also felt confirmed in my vocation of at-home remote work. Starting a home-based business seems more acceptable now.
What positive changes have you noticed in your own life and work lately? If it helps, physically make a list of good things. If you cannot easily think of big things, acknowledge the little things, like a good cup of morning coffee. Make brainstorming the positives a regular and intentional focus to lift you out of your blues.
3.Translate Reflections to Future Plans Values
It can be hard to make plans in times of uncertainty. When I cannot predict the future to a degree that allows me to make concrete plans, I find it helpful to translate my reflections on positives and negatives to values that I can focus on going forward.
For example, we had to cancel a trip to Scotland that was scheduled for this month. While this was a loss to grieve, my disappointment highlighted a value I did not know I held: celebrating our family heritage. While we cannot plan a rescheduled trip in the immediate future, we can plan to let that value steer us towards cultural celebration. On the day when we were supposed to leave, we donned the family tartan, ate Scottish trifle, and had a wee dram of the good stuff.
I have talked to countless lawyers who are used to working in big offices and have had to work from home temporarily. Most of them enjoy it. Some of them might use this newly discovered self-knowledge to consider how they can advocate for more flexible working arrangements when things go back to ‘normal.’ While we cannot always plan ahead concretely, we can lean into our values and focus on how we can implement them in the future. This future-focus can greatly assist us in challenging times.
4.Maintain Empathy and Help Others
This is the simplest and most important suggestion for times of change, so it will be this post’s concluding word. As I have heard others say, we are all in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. Quite simply, remember to be kind, and remember that everyone is doing the best they can. Comparison will not help you or others. You always have something to offer, and it is also okay to ask for help. If you need a hand with legal research assistance, please reach out to Flex Legal Network!
Kathleen is a freelance lawyer with Flex Legal. She assists lawyers with legal research and all their drafting needs. You can read more about Kathleen's experience here.