Today's perspective comes from Joseph Moreno, a Washington, D.C., and New York-based partner in the white collar defense and investigations group at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP.
What challenges has the pandemic created in your specific area of work?
As a white collar litigator, I can handle many of my clients’ needs remotely but by no means all of them. Court closures and delays are already causing active litigation matters to back up. Certain hearings and conferences can be handled online and it is encouraging to see many state and federal courts in New York, Washington, D.C. and Virginia be flexible and embrace technology to keep pace. Virtual interviews and depositions are also an option in certain situations and in my experience most parties and counsel have bent over backward to make things work.
But in other matters, particularly with internal investigations, limits on travel and in-person meetings have made it very difficult to keep them moving forward. Certain prosecutors’ and regulators’ offices cannot accept document productions and are operating remotely just like the rest of us. White collar work is certainly not going away, but there are some matters that will largely stall until things return to some degree of normalcy.
How are you and your family adapting at home?
One day at a time. For our family, which is holed up in northern Virginia, the mechanics of getting our four school-aged children to focus on their daily lesson plans and shift to distance learning has gone smoothly. Both my wife and I are U.S. Army veterans, so order, routine and respect are staples in our home. More challenging has been keeping the younger children occupied so the older ones can have the space and quiet they need to work effectively.
And a big question we struggle with is whether and how much to share with them about the pandemic and its likely aftermath. Illness, death and economic turmoil are not easy topics for children to grasp. Yet we feel strongly that if anything good is to come of this we must instill in our children a new respect for their teachers, doctors, nurses and health care providers on the front lines of public service, and the concept that while our family is so fortunate that economically we will likely get through this unharmed, many other Americans will not be so lucky. We are already planning now how our family will not just get through this but will be prepared to help others do the same.
What is the most creative or productive response to the crisis you've witnessed so far?
I do a fair amount of media work and have been a big fan of video conferencing for years. But it’s incredible how many attorneys and clients have wholeheartedly embraced video meetings in the past weeks together with file transfers, whiteboards, and other online work techniques.
I anticipate that after this situation subsides many of these technologies will continue to be used more frequently and effectively going forward, and that law firms and companies will realize there is much to be gained by a remote work force under the right circumstances. Despite the stress this situation has placed on all of us, these technologies are key in letting us continue our practices and serve our clients with as little disruption as possible while also staying close to our families. Remote work has had its ups and downs in the past decade, but how well people have responded remotely during this crisis could be a shot in the arm for telecommuting going forward.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, 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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