In many ways for me, corona virus is deja vu all over again.
Five years ago in March 2015, you would have found me working remotely from my home office where circumstances had forced me to relocate eight months earlier when my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Though I’d been remote when my daughters were young, once they entered middle school, I returned to a work space out of the house where I found that I could better focus and avail myself of networking options. But when I learned that my husband was terminally ill, there was no question, not for a minute, where I both wanted and needed to be. Within an afternoon, I packed up my boxes, set up mail forwarding and made my way back home.
Because I’d worked from home before, my transition was seamless. Internet, VOIP, e-filing, online invoicing, cloud-based files, a Google calendar and a decade-long virtual assistant in place, I didn’t experience a second of downtime. And the world outside – opposing counsel and judges and regulators – never knew that I wasn’t in my downtown office but instead, most of the time (with the exception of in-person hearings) working from home with my dying husband.
Sadly, my husband passed away in May 2015. A month later, I returned to an out of home space to prepare my team of summer associates for a trial in federal court and to force myself back out into the world. Years later, when I look back at that forced respite, I hardly remember the cases I worked on though I know that they kept the revenue flowing so that I could support my family and pay tuition all on my own. What I do remember, however, are the sunny spring days like today when my husband’s cognition had improved, and we’d drive in his mini Cooper with the top down to the Seven Eleven to buy Big Gulps and junk food. I remember how my husband would plant himself in the barrel chair in my office and when I felt overwhelmed, I could sit on his lap and he’d put his arms around me and tell me that I didn’t need to be working so hard. I remember when finally, the barrel chair in my home office was replaced with a hospital bed and how I was there the night he left this world even though I’d been working on a pleading just a few hours before.
Unbelievably, there are still many law firms that have resisted creating a location-independent practice on principle. Some don’t trust staff or themselves to work from home, while others persist in viewing a virtual firm as fly by night. And even the corona virus hasn’t persuaded many of these lawyers to change their ways because they view this pandemic as a one-time anomaly that won’t happen again. But it shouldn’t take a global crisis to appreciate the value and freedom that come not just from having location independent work capabilities but also practice and experience and the right mindset for working remotely.
The spread of corona virus was unexpected. Yet for all of us, life and our priorities are equally unpredictable. There may come a time when you want to spend more time home with your children. Or when you have an opportunity to live with your family in a different part of the world. Or as in my case, when tragedy strikes and all that matters is squeezing out every last minute with the person you love.
Today, we have the tools that enable us to keep our work lives going when real life throws us curve balls. Please – use them.