In These Unprecedented Times? Pandemic and a Private Practitioner

By Joseph Carlisle

USDCHS board member Joseph Carlisle’s double pandemic desk.

I’ve heard the phrase “in these unprecedented times” used in virtually every type of communication – from business calls to advertisements over the past months. Its use has grown tired and I’m not sure it is entirely accurate. I write this missive from a desk that belonged to my great grandfather, who practiced law in New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s. About a month into my current work-from-home stint, I realized that I am working at the desk that my forbears worked from during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. This gives me confidence that, one way or another, we will make it through our current health crisis as those before us did.

This is not to say that my life has not changed dramatically, both personally and professionally. March 13, 2020 was the last day I spent any appreciable time at my firm, Buckley Law. Since then, I’ve gone in four times, each time after hours, only to pick up office supplies. Every time has been eerie. My morning commute has been replaced by throwing the ball for my three dogs and working in my quarantine garden. My evening commute has been replaced by shooting hoops and throwing the ball for my dogs (my outside jump shot has come a long way). I take (i.e., compel) my kids on long walks to see something outside of the confines of our yard during my former coffee and lunch breaks. While school was still in session, I became a sixth-grade math tutor and an eighth-grade paper editor. However, the opportunity to spend more time with my family is a silver lining (at least for me, you’d have to ask them how they feel about it).

Professionally, I tried an administrative case by telephone over two days, I had three telephone hearings, and I’ve started to reschedule depositions – by video, of course. I’ve also filed various motions and responses, as well as complaints and answers, negotiated leases and business divorces, and handled a variety of other matters; all from my home office. I have become more skilled at video calls, such as controlling my background and learning to mute myself. But I have found that everything seems to take longer, and video calls are not only a poor substitute for in-person meetings, they are also exhausting.

Finally, the monotony of working from home and the stress from the health and financial uncertainty can be, at times, unbearable. It is in those moments that I remind myself that I am fortunate to have work and to be able to do it from home. I also remind myself that those who came before us found a way to survive (even without the internet and Zoom), and thus I will too.

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