AILA members are sharing their first person accounts of life and work at the moment – if you’re an AILA member, please email your 400-800 word submission to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. Thank you for all you do!
March 13, 2020. The President had just declared an emergency due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and stay at home orders had just started to pop up everywhere. Little did I know when I left for India, just 11 days earlier, that things were going to change so much, seemingly overnight. We were not scheduled to return until March 18, 2020 but India’s government was already starting to enter a mandatory lockdown. Staring down the possibility of not being able to leave India and potentially not being able to enter the US, we were extremely worried. Each day, the news became even more and more alarming. Travel restrictions from both countries were being announced in rapid succession. In the midst of this, we had to figure out how a lawyer and a law office can function remotely.
Many occupations are well equipped to instantly go remote. Prior to this crisis, technology firms, consultancies, even medicine had already toyed with virtual and remote services, but generally, the practice of law had never really entered this arena. Sure, some lawyers and courts had, on a very limited basis, offered telephonic or even video appearances, but the industry generally frowned upon it. There were concerns of privacy and due process, effective communication and ethical conundrums; it just did not seem possible. Yet here it was.
Overnight, lawyers had to figure out how to run their business, protect their clients, and preserve their practices. Sitting in a hotel in India, 10.5 hours ahead of my staff in the US, it was a rush to problem-solve. How would phones get answered? How would client appointments be kept? How would documents be obtained from clients with limited computer skills? How would payments be processed? For every issue, 10 questions sprang up. But the thing is, lawyers are problem solvers. Immigration lawyers have, especially in the current climate, had to find a way to survive; we have become resilient in the quest to protect our clients who have been targeted heavily in recent times. And problem-solve we did.
Across the nation, on every platform, attorneys brainstormed solutions. They shared their expertise on things from what is the best meeting platform to the best homeschool strategies for their children. This mass quarantine is unlike any other remote-work situation we’ve faced, but immigration attorneys are helping each other through this “new normal.” We shared photos and memes, ideas and solutions. We checked in on each other and held virtual happy hours. We were making our way in a Covid-19 infected world where the comradery had become just as infectious.
Many of us found ways to meet with clients virtually, gather documents and complete applications. We figured out how to keep our practices going and our employees employed. We evolved.
They say the greatest change does not happen through evolution but rather happens through a revolution. For lawyers, COVID-19 became the face of a revolution which has changed the law practice hustle. It has allowed us to be able to think of ways to use technology to enhance our practices and it may have also opened the door for lawyers to finally contemplate work life balance in a way we have never before. And that would really be a revolution.