Coping With A Pandemic: Fish & Richardson's Betsy Flanagan

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Law360 (March 27, 2020, 12:33 PM EDT) --
Betsy Flanagan
Betsy Flanagan
As self-isolation and social distancing become the norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, Law360 is sharing reactions from people around the business and legal community.

Today's perspective comes from Betsy Flanagan, a Twin Cities-based principal in the life sciences litigation practice at Fish & Richardson PC.

What challenges has the pandemic created in your specific area of work?

As an intellectual property litigator, much of what I do takes place outside of court, and many cases are marching forward without immediate impact. One downside of this is the inability to hold in-person meetings with clients, witnesses and experts, which are important steps in any case and at many points during the case. While technology can do a lot to connect us, it's not a perfect substitute for connections built through in-person meetings.

Adapting to closed courts is another challenge. We are looking at developing new strategies and processes for holding hearings and advocating remotely. Since the notion of truly remote hearings is not something courts and attorneys deal with often, if at all, some courts are asking counsel to provide proposals regarding the logistics for holding remote hearings.

One of my colleagues has taken the lead on developing a best practices guide for audio and video remote hearings, which our firm will share with both the courts and the industry. Remote hearings also highlight the importance of knowing your judge, or working with experienced local counsel, so you can put your best foot forward during arguments in these new environments.

How are you and your family adapting at home?

Our focus is on juggling, flexibility and stress relief. My husband, who is also a lawyer, and I are taking shifts to care for our three-year-old daughter. We get up earlier in the morning and work later in the evening so we can manage and make time for whatever the day brings, including a much-needed workout most days.

Communication is key, from coordinating times of our conference calls, who's making lunch or dinner, and whether any screen time is allowed. And overall we're trying to remain as positive as possible so our daughter doesn't become anxious. We're looking forward to the start of her day care's new remote learning resources taking effect in April, which will provide some positive variation to her days.

While it's hard to balance child care and work, the logistics of working from home haven't been too much of a challenge because remote work has long been a core element of Fish's culture. Our cases are regularly staffed with team members from across the country, so we already had the tools and technology in place to keep people connected when attorneys are not in the same office.

As someone who worked remotely for nearly two years, I know the value of picking up the phone and connecting with someone when you could just as easily write an email or instant message. People crave human interaction now more than ever, and one positive of this pandemic may be that we all value that human connection more in our work.

What is the most creative or productive response to the crisis you've witnessed so far?

As a former scientist and now a life sciences patent litigator, I am impressed with how the life sciences community is stepping up to create new and efficient coronavirus tests, to research and repurpose existing drugs as potential treatments, and to develop antibody-based treatments from those who have recovered from their infections. It's also encouraging to see all the businesses that are changing their manufacturing lines to make critically needed supplies and medical equipment.

We are in this together and must do everything we can to help each other. Kudos to all the companies, including my own, that are marshaling their resources to support their employees and communities at large with creative ways to feel secure, stay connected, give back, and get through these unprecedented times stronger and more resilient.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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