Law Practice in the Face of Uncertainty

The only thing predictable about 2020 to date is precisely how unpredictable the year has been.  Two months in, courts shut down and many lawyers’ practices ground to a halt as the Covid-19 pandemic swept an unprepared nation.  Back then, many of us believed that the closures were short term, and that we’d return to business as usual by Memorial Day, then Labor Day and now…your guess is as good as mine.  Meanwhile, this past week brought about another surprise: despite polls predicting comfortable leads for the Biden/Harris ticket, three days out from the election, we still don’t quite know the results. And even if Biden emerges as a winner, we can’t even depend upon the peaceful transition of power that we Americans have counted on without question.

Uncertainty can take a toll on a solo or small firm law practice in many ways.  Most obviously, uncertainty distracts us from our work as we wait to see how the dust will settle. And uncertainty can make it difficult to plan because we don’t know what will happen and when. 

To deal with uncertainty, most of us focus on the temporary nature of it. We grit our teeth and try to careen through, reminding ourselves that this too shall pass and at some point, normal will resume.  But we don’t really know that either.

In dealing with the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis, Nina Riggs, author of The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying, wrote:

“I have to love these days in the same way I love any other. There might not be a ‘normal’ from here on out.”

Likewise, we don’t know whether we will ever go back to normal, or whether this uncertain time will become our new reality.  And we don’t need to figure that out. Sometimes the best way to deal with uncertainty is to focus on the now – the days we have in front of us and squeeze as much living out of them as we can. Because tomorrow isn’t a promise.