It’s been a long year, and 2021 continues to bring hope. Last year (March 2020), I recall being plagued with anxiety, thinking that the world would end. Many days, I longed for happy hours with friends and just being with people. Something else changed dramatically, and it was court. In this writer’s/litigator’s opinion it was for the better.
In 2019, I was tired. My morning consisted of coffee, showering, then sitting in traffic for forty-five minutes to rush into court. I would then finish those family court hearings to rush to another downtown. This was followed by phone calls regarding issues at the office, pleadings that did not get filed, and clients who were unhappy with their custody schedule. I would see other fellow attorneys with stress on their faces and sweat on their brows; they were rushing too. I found myself grumpy when others before me in court were taking up so much of the judges’ time. Then traffic again, accidents on the 95, which forced me to go another way. Get downtown, realize it’s past lunch and scarf down some unhealthy fast food in my car before having to be back to another hearing. After court, I would have paperwork, consults, and unreturned phone calls. I found myself just longing for a vacation, or a day off. It seemed I had no time for myself, and only lived for the weekends.
The pandemic happened, and everything just stopped. It took most of us awhile to get acclimated, but we did. After a few months of figuring out the pass code number, audio difficulties, feedback, and bad camera angles, we got a handle on things. The travel and rushing from one place to another on a daily basis ceased. Though some stressful events in my job still remain, I am not missing that which was lost. I would enjoy seeing some of my fellow attorney friends on social media spending more time with their families.
My commute now only takes the seconds it takes to walk upstairs and log on. While waiting for my hearing I can work on all my paperwork, and set up my afternoon, all while my dog snores at my feet. When the hearing is concluded, I exercise. I cook a healthy lunch in my kitchen prior to my afternoon calendar. I finish the workday now before 5:00 p.m., which would never have happened before. The time and stress we wasted for years rushing from one place to another has now been converted to more time for ourselves.
Recently, municipal court has opened ONLY LIVE for attorneys. When I filed a motion for a simplistic matter, I was astounded to find out my appearance IN COURT was necessary. When I say simplistic, the court ended up charging my client a $125 warrant fee that never should have been filed due to the pandemic. I contemplated paying for it myself, just so I would not have to go all the way down there.
Needless to say, I was excited. It had been thirteen months since I was LIVE. That day, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. begrudgingly, as I had not been up before 7:00 a.m. in quite a while. I went back to my morning routine, shower, coffee, dusting off the suit, and strapping myself in the car. As I caressed the 95 freeway, I was greeted by a sea of red brake lights. The panic set in, I started glancing at the clock like I used to (traffic, clock, traffic, clock), wondering if I was going to make it on time, even though I left 45 minutes early. Eventually, it dawned on me: It is happening. We’re getting closer. The rushing could soon be returning.
I arrived at the courthouse with three minutes to spare (whew), paid for my parking, and went into court. Court did not open, until 8:15 a.m. (it was supposed to be 8am). I walked in and conducted my argument, which took two minutes. Another hearing that could have been an email. I then left the courthouse for my trek back home to the office. I bill out $400 per hour, and this took an hour and a half. In the end, I lost money.
I agree that there are some items that we, as attorneys, should have to attend in person. When the court must weigh credibility and truthfulness, appearance is essential. There are some items that I wish would stay as efficient as they currently are. With all of the progress we have made in the last year, I only wish that progress continues. It is time to take steps forward, not back. I will continue to try to move slowly and unhurried, as I do not miss the rush. My goodness, I am really going to miss court from home.
About the author
Mandy McKellar, Esq. is a solo practicing attorney at the McKellar Law Office exclusively in the area of family, criminal law, and juvenile delinquency.
About this article: This article was originally published in the “Ethics” issue of Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association, (June/July 2021). See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2021/communique-june-july-2021/.
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