Coping Skills: COVID-19 Lockdown

Northern California lawyers talk about adjusting to the new normal

Published in 2020 Northern California Super Lawyers Magazine

As coronavirus lockdowns stretch toward the second month in several states, Northern California attorneys are finding ways to adapt to working remotely, having the kids home from school, and handling all the other challenges that go with trying to sidestep a pandemic.

San Francisco immigration attorney Philip M. Levin, with Philip Levin & Associates, says his practice area presents unique work-from-home frustrations. “Immigration law is administrative law, and we have a fairly robust family-based practice,” Levin says. “It's fairly paper-intensive, given the many forms and supporting documents needed for filings with the Department of Homeland Security. Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to bring 250 files in packing boxes into my dining room (new office).”

But Levin says he has found a coping mechanism: “going into the office once a week to drop-off/pick up boxes of files.” In between, he adds, “We also use the TeamViewer app, which gives us remote access to the office server. Which is a real lifesaver.”

And he does pop into the office occasionally—while observing social distancing, of course. “I go into the office every Friday,” he says. “Most of the staff works from home, although several go to the office once every few weeks for a day of solitude and uninterrupted labor. The lawyers also go in sporadically, but a bit more frequently.”

The biggest challenge for construction litigator Lisa Nicolls, with Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld in Sacramento? It’s a common one. “Having my kids home at the same time I am trying to work remotely,” she reports.

Her workaround? “Mostly just facing the reality that I’m going to have to allow them more screen time than I’d like just to keep them occupied,” she says, “especially when it’s raining and I can’t send them outside.”

Family law attorney Michelene Insalaco at Sucherman-Insalaco in San Francisco shares Levin’s concerns about paperwork, and believes it’s high time for the court system to upgrade its technology. “I am working entirely remotely from home,” she says. “The biggest obstacle has been emergency filings, which require dropping off printed, tabbed sets of pleadings into court drop-boxes. I think that the courts of our state very much need to all move to e-filing.”

Another challenge, she reports, is just keeping in touch with everyone at the firm. For that, they have found a workaround: “We are using MS Teams for chatting and Zoom for video case meetings.”

But for Todd Noonan, a commercial litigator with Noonan Law Group in Sacramento, working remotely is nothing new. That’s what he’s been doing since launching his solo litigation practice a year ago. 

“I have been operating primarily through a virtual office since that time, and—with clients located throughout the state—this ‘virtual’ approach has not presented any real obstacle to a successful practice,” he says. “If anything, the recent COVID-related push by courts and law firms to support remote work, remote appearances, and fully electronic communications and filings aligns more closely with my existing practice.”

“That being said, I do not prefer video over an in-person appearance for substantive court hearings, depositions, mediations, arbitrations, and client preparation related to those important litigation events. Video cannot capture the full nuance of in-person communications; it is a workaround. Time will tell how extensive and how permanent this shift away from in-person meetings will be.”

Noonan says maintaining a separate, fully equipped home office is crucial to succeed at working remotely.  “There just cannot be any reduction in your ability to quickly and completely meet client needs. 

“Beyond that, the lack of a commute and my two office dogs are just a bonus.”

For information on more legal questions regarding COVID-19, visit FindLaw’s legal center, or find more articles on superlawyers.com/articles (search for COVID-19). 


For more information and articles for legal professionals navigating COVID-19 as it relates to their law practice and clients, visit FindLaw’s COVID-19 resource center or visit superlawyers.com/articles (search for COVID-19).

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