The following Q&A is reprinted from the April 27, 2020 editions of Law360
Today’s perspective comes from Washington, D.C.-based Lawrence Ebner, founder of Capital Appellate Advocacy PLLC.
What challenges has the pandemic created in your specific area of work?
I am so happy that in 2016 I decided to become a solo practitioner. Everything that I have learned during the past three-and-a-half years about running my own appellate litigation boutique almost entirely online has enabled me to make a fairly seamless transition to working from home rather than at my downtown D.C. office.
Since many appellate lawyers spend substantial time at their computers, the physical location of the computer — home vs. office — does not make much difference when working on a brief stored in the cloud. Online legal research has become smarter as well as portable with great new programs such as Casetext. And the fact that the pandemic has prompted most federal appellate courts to stop accepting paper filings has made logistics easier.
The main pandemic-related challenge that I see for independent lawyers is maintaining a professional “presence” when, as now, physical networking is not possible. That is a problem that I began to address long before I added “pandemic” to my vocabulary.
As a solo practitioner, I had to become my own marketing department. I learned how to make very good use of placing my own posts and articles on my website, LinkedIn and other social media. And I became involved in professional groups such as DRI–The Voice of the Defense Bar, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and the International Network of Boutique and Independent Law Firms. These organizations offer members great ways to engage in digital networking.
How are you and your family adapting at home?
The main things I miss about being downtown are my workouts at the University Club of Washington, D.C., and my daily salads from Chopt. But my wife Barbara and I take daily walks around the neighborhood, so we do continue to get some exercise.
I think the most important way to adapt to working at home is to maintain a daily routine. For me, that means “commuting” to my home office around 7:30 am, checking my email, reading Law360 and a couple of other legal publications, and then resuming brief-writing or other work, and speaking on the phone with clients and contacts, until late afternoon.
There also are several FaceTime sessions during the day with our daughters and grandchildren. These are better than coffee breaks at the office!
What is the most creative or productive response to the crisis you’ve witnessed so far?
The most creative response that I have seen is the short, feel-good video that Carr Workplaces office managers have sent to all of the professionals, like me, who maintain offices in their shared- office-suite facilities.
Zoom meetings have literally gone viral. Video adds a new dimension to professional interaction, and it’s sort of fun to see clients and colleagues in their home environments. I also have begun to notice the emergence of pandemic “humor,” which can be in very bad taste, but sometimes is actually uplifting.