What To Do While Stuck At Home: Case Management Self-Health Check

Posted: April 21st, 2020 by

Lisa Shapson, The Legal Intelligencer (online) and Pennsylvania Law Weekly 

Family Lawyers:  It’s a Good Time for a Case Management Self-Health Check

As my kids have grown from young elementary school students to middle school students, I have become increasingly frustrated by the fact that our family’s weeknights and weekends have become this never-ending treadmill of activities, dinner and homework. On an average night, both of my daughters have at least two after-school activities that don’t end until around 8 p.m., immediately followed by homework until lights out at 10 p.m.OK, let’s be realit’s more like 11 p.m. During the week, my children usually eat dinner at home quickly in about 10 minutes between their after-school activities, or in the car on the way from one activity to the next. Meals on the weekends are little bit easier to fit in even though we are usually juggling the music lessons with the basketball games and play practice.

Like many of you reading this, the cycle of work-child activity and quick dinner-homework has been on repeat in our household for many years now. As a result, I believe that my health and the health of my household space has taken a toll. A few months ago, after being particularly frustrated with my physical health and our somewhat disorganized houseand so many broken New Year’s resolutions to remedy themI complained to my husband that I wished everything would just stop. I needed a break. There just wasn’t enough time at any point of the yearincluding summerto get to the household projects we wanted to accomplish and there wasn’t enough daily time in our schedule for us to exercise as much as we wanted to. I just wanted to take control again of my house and my health.

And then, on the Ides of March, without much obvious warning … Everything just stopped.

The stoppage in play that I was waiting for, that many of us had been waiting for, happened. The government blew the whistle on our lives and we all froze. But unlike that part in a movie where everything is in freeze-frame mode while the main character finds clarity, I panicked. We all panicked. How are we going to work? How are our children going to learn? Then, we remembered food. How are we all going to eat? Panic led to mass purchasing of staple items. A grocery list quickly became a scavenger hunt in which you hoped to get at least 10% of everything on your list.

On March 16, our work team, like many, was busy confirming that we could all work perfectly with a skeletal staff, which transitioned to all attorneys and staff working 100% remotely the very next day. Our children’s school handed out Chromebooks and textbooks to the kids and said “see you in our Google Classroom.”

So what have these weeks of Mayor Jim Kenney’s “stay-at-home” order been like for me, both at home and at work?

For the first time evernot including vacationswe cook and the four of us eat all three meals together … at the kitchen table. My husband and I have gone for a run together each day and I have slept for eight hours each night. This weekend, we each plan to supervise the cleanout and organization of at least one part of our home.

The purpose of isolating everyone is to keep us all healthy until this crazy pandemic passes. So, what can this time look like for you? I recommend doing a self-health check of your body, mind and household. What steps do you need to take to be healthier? Go for a run or a bike ride during your virtual lunch break. Participate in an on-demand yoga or exercise class. Play a virtual board game or read a book via webcam with a distant family member. Or, perhaps try the old-fashioned way: pick up the phone and call someone without feeling guilty about the time those calls take. Involve your kids in these activities too.

For those of you reading this who are family lawyers or family law clients, now is a good time for a case management self-health check. Which cases can be mediated now that court intervention is literally not an option unless there is a dire emergency? Is there a conflict that has further escalated or been resolved by this pandemic?

You have now been given a moment to stop, think and breathe. Use it wisely. Decide that if a legal separation or divorce is the best option for you, what does the big picture look like for your family? How is your family going to peacefully remove existing conflict and what measures can be put into place to address future conflict so that everyone can emerge from this crisis with a clean bill of emotional health?

As for work life, I am, thankfully, faring better than most. Our firm was already equipped to work remotely and all members of our team have years of experience working from home, which we allowed as needed for things like having an appliance delivered or caring for a young child. We have scanned everything coming into and leaving our firm since 2005, so all of our client files are electronic. Also, we send and receive faxes via email and are set up to file pleadings electronically in all counties that accept e-filings. We were in the best possible shape for a life altering “stay-at-home” order and the closing of nonessential businesses since we do not rely heavily on our physical space and Redwelds to practice law.

My hope is that the courts will also emerge healthier from quarantine, enabling electronic filings in all counties as well as attending certain hearings and conferences virtually. Electronic filing will eliminate courier fees for those filings and phone or virtual conferencing will not only minimize traffic and promote safety within the courthouse, but will also eliminate clients having to pay an attorney’s travel and waiting time to attend hearings in person.

Meanwhile, I plan to emerge from this part of my journey with better overall health and cleaner closets.

Reprinted with permission from the April 21, 2020 edition of Pennsylvania Law Weekly and the April 16, 2020 edition of The Legal Intelligencer (online) © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited (contact 877-257-3382 or reprints@alm.com).

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