Law From Home: Snapshots Of Attys' COVID-19 Office Setups

By Aebra Coe
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Law360 (April 24, 2020, 7:33 PM EDT) -- In a shed, on a boat, at the kitchen table, with children and pets in tow. What it looks like to practice law during the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home push is vastly different from what it looked like just two months ago.

Attorneys have had to get creative when it comes to setting up their workspaces at home so that they can continue to focus on tackling complex legal issues while also juggling other responsibilities, such as home-schooling their children or caring for elderly parents.

Many have gone the extra mile to find a quiet spot in homes that are currently filled with babies crying, children playing and dogs barking.

Goldberg Kohn partner Meredith Kirshenbaum says that in the mornings, she responds to work emails from her son's bedroom as she helps him with his schooling.

By afternoon, when school lets out, she said she often escapes to the car to find a quiet space to continue working.

"When things get particularly noisy at home, which is often, I take calls in the car where I am guaranteed there will not be any unwanted conference call visitors," Kirshenbaum said.

Bay Area immigration attorney Nadia Yakoob has set up her home office in a small, 8-by-8 shed next to her house so that she can find some quiet in the midst of caring for and helping to home-school her children, ages 2 and 8.

"Fortunately, it has electricity running to it, and I boosted Wi-Fi coverage to reach it so I could do daily Zoom calls with my team," said Yakoob, who manages a boutique law firm. "The kids visit me when I am working, but having a space outside of my home — even if it's just 10 to 15 feet away — is really helpful."

Reavis Page Jump LLP partner Deena Merlen has set up an office in her husband's recording studio, which is soundproof. Her spouse, Joe Bell, is a professional musician.

The setup is key in Merlen's household, which is currently filled up with her husband, 11- and 18-year-old children, her 89-year-old mother and two family pets.

Other lawyers have moved their practices outdoors to accommodate full houses and simply for the pleasure of spending time outside while at work.

Becker & Poliakoff PA shareholder Jay Roberts set up his temporary office on his porch, which has a view overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. His fiancée, Nelson Mullins attorney Lacey Corona, has a desk set up inside the couple's home.

Another Florida attorney, Trenam Law shareholder Gregory-Scott Haney, is surrounded by blue water as he stays busy closing real estate transactions and reviewing commercial leases from a deck overlooking one of the inlets of Tampa Bay.

Across the sea, Andrew Martin, managing partner of Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP's London office, has set up his new home office in the captain's quarters of his 125-foot barge, which is moored at Blackwall Basin in Canary Wharf, London.

Martin has lived in the barge since 2018 and says his commute now consists of seven stairs from the main cabin up to the office.

Many attorneys' home offices are located in a much more mundane space than a barge: the kitchen table.

Best Best & Krieger LLP partner Alisha Winterswyk says that being at her kitchen table allows her to work while keeping an eye on her 5-year-old and her baby.

"I have a home office but am unable to work in it because of all there is to juggle," Winterswyk said. "I have to be able to see the kids while I'm working, so I'm sacrificing ergonomics for safety."

Baker Botts LLP partner Heather Souder Choi spends her day working and learning alongside her two children, ages 6 and 3, at her family's table.

"I spent an hour cleaning up my basement and setting up a mini office that I never use," Choi said. "I spend most of the day at the dining room table where I can work and supervise Zoom elementary school at the same time."

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP partner Cheryl Camin Murray manages the day's work from her home office in Dallas, alongside her 4-year-old triplets, Piper, Tess and Connor.

Andrew Martin, partner-in-charge of Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP's London office, has set up his new home office in the captain's quarters of his 125-foot barge, which is moored at Blackwall Basin in Canary Wharf, London. Most days, Martin works alongside Willow, his English bulldog.

Washington, D.C.-based Baker Botts partner Heather Choi and her two children, 6-year-old Anna and 3-year-old Joshua, work and learn together at the family's dining room table. Choi says she set up a small office in her basement, but often ends up working in the dining room instead so she can supervise her children's distance learning.

McGuire Craddock & Strother shareholder Jennifer Ryback says working from home with a 3-year-old and 6-month-old baby (pictured) has required a good deal of flexibility. In this picture, she says her 6-month-old had refused to go down for his late-morning nap, so she decided to let him help with some of her email responses.

Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila San Francisco partner Jeff Williams gets some help proofreading a brief from his granddaughters, who stay with him and his wife during the day while their parents are at work.

Meredith Kirshenbaum, a partner in Goldberg Kohn's Chicago office, gets some work done in her car. Kirshenbaum says working at home with three young children can make finding a quiet place to take a conference call without interruption a challenge, and has found the car to be a good solution to that problem.

WilmerHale counsel Derek Gosma, who is based in Los Angeles, balances his time working from his home office and hanging out with his 3-year-old daughter, Penelope. During the workday, Gosma says his cat, Lyle, and dog, Ernie, usually remain nearby to offer their moral support.

Arnold & Porter partner Raqiyyah Pippins has filled her home office with items such as vision boards and art pieces that help her focus on the things that are most important in her life. On the shelf to the far right is a piece she created to remind herself of the spirit in which she aims to approach all things: with love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Fennemore Craig PC associate Charles Markle has enjoyed the time away from needing to wear pants while practicing law, which he now does from his home in Phoenix, Arizona. Markle says ear plugs and AirPods have become go-to productivity tools as he encounters occasional interruptions during the workday from his two elementary school-aged children.

Harsh Arora, a partner in Kelley Kronenberg's Fort Lauderdale office, is able to keep an eye on his children — Shaan, 8, Sofia, 5, and Sonia, 2 — while he practices law, since his home office is next to the children's play area.

Reavis Page Jump partner Deena Merlen is currently managing the law firm's Connecticut practice out of her home in Riverside, Connecticut, where she often works out of her husband's recording studio. Along with her husband, a professional musician, Merlen is sharing the home with her 11-year-old and 18-year-old children, her 89-year-old mother, and the family pets: a dog and a python (pictured).

Jay Roberts, a shareholder in Becker & Poliakoff's Ft. Walton, Florida, office, works from a back porch command center that looks out over the Gulf of Mexico. His fiancée, Lacey Corona, an attorney at Nelson Mullins, has an office in their home. Their dog, Maizie, trots between the two during the workday, making sure they are hard at work.

KoonsFuller Family Law associate Thomas J. Daley, who is based out of Plano, Texas, says his days have a similar flow to how they were before he started working from home, only without the commute. A green screen allows him to make court appearances with a standard office background instead of his home's staircase.

Nadia Yakoob, managing attorney at Bay Area immigration boutique Nadia Yakoob & Associates, has set up her home office in a small, 8-foot by 8-foot outdoor shed in her yard. Yakoob's children, ages 8 and 2, visit her throughout the day, but she says being outside of the home has been helpful for her productivity while working remotely.

Perkins Coie LLP's Bellevue, Washington, managing partner Kris Wilson works from a small desk in her home, while taking on the role of part-time teaching assistant alongside her husband to daughters Emma (left) and Joanna, who are in kindergarten and first grade. Because the children are just now learning to read, they need frequent assistance throughout their home school day, Wilson says.

Eleanor Barnett of Florida litigation boutique Waldman Barnett is practicing law out of her new home office, which is in her foyer. With her husband using the home's "real" office, Barnett is working among golf clubs and lacrosse sticks and is using a desk that at one time belonged to her grandfather, who was an original partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York City.

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP partner Frederick Whitmer's days start a little later now that he is working from home, without the commute from New Canaan, Connecticut, into Manhattan. What used to be a 5:30 a.m. wake-up has been moved to 7:15 a.m., since Whitmer is able to begin the workday soon after making breakfast for himself and his Abyssinian red cat, Flämmchen (pictured).

Trenam Law shareholder Gregory-Scott Haney practices real estate law on his dock overlooking one of the inlets of Tampa Bay at his home in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Jim Silliman, an associate with Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP in Houston, currently works from home behind his makeshift "office doors" assembled daily by his children — Graham, 6, Asher, 4, and Annslee, 2, (not pictured).

Fisher Phillips LLP Atlanta partner Jennifer Sandberg works at her standup desk alongside her dog, Guinness, who she says is "in heaven" now that his owners are home all the time. Shoes are optional in Sandberg's home office.

--Editing by Jill Coffey and Michael Watanabe. 

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