The Adaptations We Made this Year Can Continue to Serve Us

Throughout the past year, the transition to remote work has been challenging for many of us, but the need to stay connected and carry on with our work has made us adapt incredibly quickly. We’ve learned how to embrace technology in a way we had not before, despite its widespread availability. Technologies brought our clients closer when travel was not possible, and enabled us to connect with our colleagues in often less formal ways. I believe the changes we have made over the past year will present new opportunities for us in the next five years, and beyond.

In my practice of litigation, we have adapted to remote depositions of witnesses, remote video court hearings and mediations, and even remote international arbitrations. Remote work and video court have presented opportunities to expand practices and reach clients in ways we were not able to before. It also reminded us how interconnected we are and highlighted the importance of finding ways to be there for our clients. Even as we start returning to the office and eagerly welcome reconnecting with our colleagues and clients in person, I think we will continue to embrace remote work by transitioning into a more hybrid model, where remote access and remote connections will remain par for the course.

Although technology fueled the remote workforce throughout the pandemic, it also presented challenges. It brought up ethical issues about client confidentiality, cybersecurity, questions of professional etiquette when accessing proceedings remotely, and disparities in the accessibility to technology. Moving forward, we will need to address these issues and ensure that access to technology does not create a more permanent division between those accessing legal services and the workforce.

Additionally, the pandemic has exacerbated in some instances the need to maintain delineation between work and home. Especially for those who must balance work with caretaking (and it tends to overwhelmingly be women who bear the burden of caretaking for their family, elderly parents, and children), these delineations will only continue to gain importance.

As we “return to normal,” I think it’s imperative that the adaptations we have made over the past year continue to serve us. Continuing to have a more flexible outlook towards office work will be important, particularly to ensure that burnout, and a return to normal, does not lead to another exit of women from the workforce.