Co-chair of the Litigation Practice at Moses & Singer, LLP
Many of us have the opportunity of regularly working from home, a benefit provided by many companies across a wide swath of industries. But what happens if your profession is reliant on you being present in-person? To understand the trials and tribulations of what it’s like to be a litigator in the Age of COVID-19, we sat down with David Lackowitz, Co-chair of the Litigation Practice at Moses & Singer, LLP.
An experienced litigator, David shares with us what he thinks the legal profession will look like in the future, as well as client confidentiality, and the resilience of New Yorkers.
So, David, how are you doing in the current environment?
The transition to working remotely was considerably more seamless than I had anticipated. In terms of remote technology and access to clients and their files, given I’ve largely been paperless for years, so I really didn’t miss a beat. While it has at times been challenging juggling work and the kids, in particular with my wife also working full-time, there have been some silver linings. I’ve had more meals with my family in the past two-plus months than I probably had in the prior two years.
Many professional businesses can work remotely with little disruption. Is the same true of the legal profession?
We had numerous attorneys working remotely fairly regularly long before COVID-19 and so again, from a technology standpoint, we were pretty well-situated for the adjustment. The firm was well-prepared and has always had a crisis management plan in place, which helped make the transition smooth for everyone. As a litigator, the remote oral arguments required a bit of getting used to but in general, I have found virtually no disruption to my day-to-day (other than my kids who seem to constantly need something).
As a litigator, working from home must have its own set of challenges. What are they, and how have you overcome them?
I think the most challenging aspect of remote working has been the lack of in-person collaboration. Litigation is by nature a particularly collaborative practice and it’s just not the same communicating remotely. I’ve found oral argument, in particular without video, to be challenging, as a big part of argument is getting a feel for the judge and one’s adversary, which is much tougher to do remotely, and impossible absent video. But it remains a level playing field and all litigators are dealing with the same constraints.
Do you think the legal profession will go back to its former business model, or are you expecting to see changes in the way business gets done?
I think the industry will largely get back to its pre-COVID-19 days. With that said, I do think we’ll have more lawyers working remotely more often and I suspect law firms will be cognizant of the ability of their lawyers to work remotely fairly effortlessly as they consider what size space to take on going forward. A lawyer friend of mine with his own firm a bit smaller than ours said to me recently that it’s very unlikely that he renews his lease when it’s up as there’s no need to continue taking on such overhead when he can have half his staff work remotely on any given day. But for us, having recently renewed our lease, I think we’ll largely revert back to our pre-pandemic mode of operations.
What have you done to assure clients the confidentiality of your work is maintained in a work from home environment?
That’s an interesting question. Client confidentiality is a priority matter at Moses & Singer. Pre-COVID, the firm assessed and took measures to ensure that attorneys working remotely would be able to maintain client confidentiality. As we prepared for the office closure, our IT department was tasked with testing and implementing systems relating to access to client communications, information, and documents.
What can you tell us about the resilience of your team, and all Americans, in the current environment?
This has been one of the silver linings I mentioned previously. To see how well our team adapted, and how hard everyone continues to work, has been truly remarkable. I’m not sure I’m best equipped to opine on all how Americans are dealing with the current environment but what I do know is that we’ve seen how resilient NYC can be and my view is that we’ll be back, and stronger than ever once we’re able put the current pandemic behind us.