Erin Fiore & Lizzie Vicars

The announcement of the pandemic left us scrambling for solutions to new challenges.  Women in business have demonstrated just how well they can surmount unforeseen challenges by providing creative solutions and adapting quickly.  The ingenuity and adaptability of women in business should be celebrated, especially in a time when it can feel like there is little to celebrate.  

As two female attorneys practicing in Chicago, we can attest to these challenges.  We have “good days” and “bad days,” but using our “toolkit” of solutions is empowering.  We’d like to offer you six tips from our “toolkit” to empower you as well.

Tip #1:  Remote Access to Case Documents is Essential.

Once we received news that we would need to begin working remotely, we implemented a paperless and remote access system for all case documents.  It carries a huge environmental benefit as well as personal.  We encourage you to implement this in other areas, i.e. paperless billing, storing documents electronically and even scanning children’s artwork onto a digital platform.

Tip #2:  Learn to Manage Support Staff Remotely.

You need your village.  With remote work, it was imperative to learn how to manage support staff remotely.  Open communication is essential, along with being flexible and open to learning new skills along with your staff.  Zoom is great for connecting with staff to ensure expectations and concerns are heard and understood.  We also recommend keeping your village close with Zoom to let staff know they are appreciated. 

Tip #3:  Find Creative Ways to Connect with Clients.

As Workers’ Compensation defense attorneys, we love staying connected to our clients.  To adapt to the pandemic, we have used Zoom in place of traditional social events.  We’ve hosted a number of “Zoom Happy Hours,” as a way to kick off the weekend.  They are B.Y.O.B. and creative backgrounds are always encouraged!  

Tip #4:  Be Confident in Virtual Court Proceedings.

It’s a few minutes before your Zoom Court appearance, and you’re still wearing pajamas.  You scramble for something to wear, while simultaneously corralling your pets and/or children out of your makeshift office.  As a solution, we recommend keeping a suit jacket within arm’s reach.  You may still be wearing pajama pants with your emergency suit jacket, but you will feel put together to appear virtually. 

We also recommend a very reliable internet connection and a backup connection, i.e. a mobile hotspot device.  Your argument can be heard even in the event of an outage and you can troubleshoot the outage later. 

Tip #5:  Keep Cases Moving Creatively.

We have created alternate methods to avoid unnecessary delays despite pandemic related delays.  We implemented tactics like maintaining very detailed diaries of our cases, allowing us to monitor cases that may not be moving at the pace we or our clients are used to and enabling us to be calculated in how and when to follow-up and file motions aggressively.  We don’t wait for Court intervention, but instead push for resolution from the outset of each case.   

Tip #6:  Maintain a Work-life Balance.

Working from home can leave you feeling like your workday never ends.  Initially, it seemed we should have all the time in the world to work, exercise, learn new skills, remodel your home and spend time with family.  But in practice, many of us have felt quite the opposite.  Just because home has become your office, be careful not to overwork yourself.  We recommend creating a dedicated workspace so you can physically and mentally disconnect at the end of your day.  

Working from home with children is especially difficult.  Instead of trying to constantly separate work from children, creatively connect with them throughout the workday.  Giving children individual attention during work is a huge mental boost for everyone and is a great reminder to take a break and avoid burnout.  

Bonus Tip #7:  Don’t be Too Hard on Yourself.

There will be days when life just doesn’t work out as planned.  Always remember, tomorrow is a new day.  Fighting off residual negativity and approaching the next day with fresh eyes and positivity is the best cure for a “bad day.”  Never be ashamed to ask others for help or advice.