Tough Times Don’t Last

By Mark Lanier

These are tough times.  

As the pandemic of COVID-19 circles the globe in the present, we’re already looking to the future to determine how our offices can continue to operate and be productive. Even as we’re faced with the devastating illness and tragic loss of life in our communities, we’re facing delays in trials and are forced to conduct legal proceedings without the normal interactions with courts and counsel that we want and need. Perhaps most difficult, through this upheaval, we’re communicating with anxious clients for whom the slow path to justice is bogged down even further. 

These are tough times. 

But for many of you, these extra days and weeks should present a chance to further examine the details of pending matters, review depositions and items in discovery, consult with expert witnesses, conduct further research and, in general, find new ways to bring the case to life and hone your arguments.  

Perhaps this is also a time with a greater opportunity to seek resolution in particular matters. Given the uncertainty of when jury trials in most jurisdictions can resume, both sides may have even greater motivation to settle. I’d encourage you to review and prioritize those cases, discuss the available options with your client and be prepared to engage in reasonable and rational negotiations.  

For those defense firms and their clients who are both reluctant and committed to go to trial, the current crisis affords them yet another reason to deny and delay. Prepare now for those eventualities with creative arguments and tactics to overcome the inevitable obstacles.  

We also need to bear in mind the likely changes and lengthy transition we face when courts re-open. Even the most hidebound judges have now experienced the convenience and efficiencies gained through technologies such as videoconferencing, and I believe we can anticipate greater expectations and demands to use such technology from all parties going forward.  

But also remember that the technologies supporting remote access may be more vulnerable to security issues, and our collective obligations to confidentiality have not been removed by the threat of a different kind of virus. Make sure your office and individual employees are following best practices and have the latest cybersecurity tools in place.  

Now, more than ever, I believe it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with our clients. The emotional reaction to the ongoing delays and uncertainty can be even more frustrating or even devastating for those we represent. Even if there’s nothing new to report, a call or email can work wonders for the relationship and, frankly, may make both you and the client feel a bit better.    

In this hour of turmoil for many, I hope you can put aside the anger, confusion or anxiety you may feel. With a clear head and calm heart, you can better embrace the unpredictable and plan for what is to come. Remember that our clients are counting on us to prepare for anything, to remain strong, to be patient when it’s required and, ultimately, to deliver results.  

I hope and pray that you find the source to strengthen your spirit; solidify your purpose; and find the patience, empathy and compassion that will get each of us through these tough times. 

benchMARK’S is a regular column on law and life from Mark Lanier. Mr. Lanier is regarded as one of the top trial attorneys in the United States. He’s also an author, teacher, pastor and expert storyteller.