I’ve been telecommuting for over a decade now, so when a COVID-19 stay at home order finally made its way to Montana, not much changed for me in terms of my work routine. In fact, it actually got a bit better due to the adjustments ALPS had to make in order to enable everyone else to a work from home. Within a few days, I felt more connected than ever because everyone at ALPS had to communicate virtually, and communicate we did.
Of course, there were more significant changes in other aspects of my life. The gym closed, personal and work travel came to a standstill, neighbors started crossing the street to avoid having to pass by too closely on the sidewalk, and several of our kids went into panic mode worrying over us. To this day, I still don’t get what caused the kids to worry so much. Not to diminish the risks with COVID-19; but at the time I was just thankful that as a Costco guy, we were good on the toilet paper front.
But now that we’re all well past the early stages of this pandemic, most of us seem to have settled into what more and more are coming to describe as the new normal. I don’t buy into this; and as a risk guy, this perspective worries me. The following parallel explains why. To me, texting is to distracted driving what describing the changes that have occurred in response to the pandemic as the new normal is to distracted lawyering. Texting has become such a ubiquitous behavior that far too many view doing it as normal in settings where it should never happen, such as when driving. In my mind, the risk that comes from trying to normalize all the significant changes that have occurred during this pandemic is that some will fail to appreciate the consequences of the change because they are too distracted by the process of normalization. All normalization does is create a false sense of comfort.
These are trying times in so many ways and I do understand the need to find some sense of normalcy when change is happening at warp speed. Just don’t become distracted by the effort because that’s when mistakes happen. Consider the work from home transition that many lawyers have been dealing with. In terms of one’s response, if the entire focus is solely on trying to find comfort in a new normal with family routines, work hours, virtual schooling, and communication channels, what consequences are not being thought through and responsibly addressed? For example, home networks are often far less secure than the office network, in no small part due to the use of home tech resources by all family members who reside in the home. Have you addressed issues such as confidentiality, network security, file documentation, and diligence while working from home?
Here’s my point. The odds of a malpractice misstep go up when you or a member of your staff becomes distracted, depressed, overwhelmed, stressed, scared, exhausted, overworked, or concerned about job security, all of which are common reactions to rapid and significant change. All that trying to settle into a new normal in response does is mask the issue. It’s a way to avoid having to address reality, which is a change that has occurred and that change needs to be recognized and the consequences understood. That’s the only way internal firm processes and procedures can be responsibly adjusted so you and your staff can not only move forward in a competent manner but also allow everyone to leave any unhealthy responses to the change in the past.
Truth be told, there really is no new normal, only ever-present change. The better you become at navigating change as it happens, the more successful you will be in all your endeavors. In other words, work through change and be the better for it. Never try to ignore any change by simply trying to normalize it. That’s a malpractice misstep in the making.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.