Covid-19 is infecting every part of our lives at home and professionally. You’ve seen the worried posts on Facebook.
Conferences are being canceled. Schools are closing or holding classes online only. People are ‘social distancing’, a term and practice that I think will bring more problems than solutions.
What can you do to responsibly deal with Covid-19 in your law practice? I have a few ideas to share on that subject.
Use your Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence helps lawyers to serve their clients better and grow in the best of times. In these panicked times, it can help you hold your practice together and deal with all the uncertainty around you and your clients.
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand your own emotions and influence the emotions and behaviors of those around you. There are many components but today I want to focus on self-regulation, social awareness, and empathy.
Control your thoughts
Self-regulation is all about how you recognize and manage your own emotions. Now, more than any other time in your practice, you can’t let your emotions run away with you.
While I’m typically complaining about how law school forced us all to be logical, I’m happy about that in this situation. Use your logic to assess the risks to you, your family and your business. Get the facts from a reputable source. You’ll see that there is a reason for concern and caution but not panic.
Share the facts you find so that others can find some peace of mind as well. Which leads me to…
Take the person’s temperature
Social awareness is about being able to read a person, or a room, and determine what is needed.
Your clients and legal staff are probably freaking out. As changes happen, they may be at a loss for how to deal with school closings, forced vacation and the like. They may catastrophize the situation, blowing it way out of proportion.
Clients, and staff, need your reassurance that things will be okay. (Yes, they will eventually be okay.)
How you react and respond can dramatically impact their feelings and actions.
- Don’t catastrophize. If someone says we are all gonna die, don’t agree and say you’re stockpiling. Redirect to attention to a more realistic view.
- Don’t minimize. If someone says they’re worried, acknowledge that but don’t say don’t worry. That only adds guilt or shame to the mix.
- Don’t fix. If someone asks ‘what am I gonna do?’, they may just need you to listen to them. I know this one is hard because we are trained to problem-solve. Ask the speaker what they want you to do- listen for support or listen for problem-solving.
- Don’t guess. Ask your paralegals and associates what they need from you to get through this and still deliver for you.
Empathy is about seeing the other person and connecting to the feelings they are experiencing, even if you’re not in the same situation.
Use empathy to acknowledge the scary, crazy, random feelings your clients and staff are experiencing. For instance, people who have compromised immune systems are panicking hard right now.
They are experiencing feelings of fear, regret, helplessness, frustration and more. You’ve felt those feelings before (likely in law school) so you can empathize.
Some people will not be able to name their feelings easily. You can help by being acquainted with the variety of feelings beyond happy, mad, and sad.
Download an emotions chart like the Junto Insitute Emotional Wheel to get more insight into the different emotions. It’s fascinating and will definitely help you deal with clients, your paralegal and maybe even opposing counsel.
Words have power. Nobody knows that better than attorneys.
One last thought…
Be good to you. Lawyering is already hard. There are so many more demands on your time and attention now. Be sure to take time out to protect your greatest asset- YOU.
Reach out for help if you need it. Be vulnerable with the people you love and trust. Protect your mental health.
I’ve put myself on a media diet. I’m not consuming the news like skittles. I’m on Facebook less to avoid the verbal diarrhea people spew there. I’m taking more naps to refuel and reset my mindset. (Yes, you can take a nap, even if it’s just a 15-minute power nap).
I predict there will be a plethora of legal challenges that will flow out of Covid-19 and you’ll need to be fresh and ready to help your people.
PS For more guidance, research the CDC guidelines for businesses.
Get the audio from the free webinar here