The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way of life for people and businesses for almost a year. The way people grocery shop, see loved ones and conduct business has had to go through an intense adaptation since the United States went into a lockdown in March 2020.
Howard Mishkind, founding partner of Mishkind Kulwicki Law in Beachwood; Elena Lidrbauch, attorney at Hickman & Lowder in Cleveland; and Craig Weintraub, attorney at The Law Offices of Craig Weintraub in Cleveland, said their offices are not much different than other businesses that have had to make adjustments.
“I’ve been working pretty much remotely,” Mishkind said. “Because I am 65, I’m at a higher risk for COVID. So I’ve chosen to work remotely, and I’d only go into the office maybe once or twice a week as necessary.”
While attorneys around the state work remotely, they have to come up with other ways to communicate with their clients and other partners in the legal field.
“We do everything by Zoom now,” Weintraub said. “So, you’ve got to have an understanding of the technology as well as preserving our clients’ rights to privacy. Everything gets conducted by Zoom. All of our meetings that we have with prosecutors and judges are all being held by Zoom.”
Lidrbauch said although Zoom is an effective communication tool during these times, it is difficult to duplicate face-to-face conversations.
“I miss the human contact probably like everyone,” Lidrbauch said. “When you’re on the phone – if it’s a client that you already have an established relationship with, then it’s a little easier to have a phone conversation. If it’s a brand new person, it’s a little more challenging because you don’t see their face.”
One way Lidrbauch’s office was able to see clients face-to-face during the summer was the utilization of a drive-through system. Clients could arrive in their cars, speak with people from the office and sign the proper documents.
One big consequence of the pandemic, however, is the suspension of jury trials since the middle of March 2020. This issue is particularly magnified for people like Weintraub, who specializes in criminal defense. He said the right to a speedy trial has been threatened by the long-term suspension of jury trials.
An indirect way a trial can be affected is a “complaining witness” that loses energy to proceed further due to the length of the trial.
“I think that the question that I would ask is, will the casualties of this virus include oral advocacy?,” Weintraub asked. “Because it has a direct impact on what we’re doing for criminal clients.”
Although there are consequences and drawbacks to working in a pandemic, Mishkind said he believes certain things are here to stay, even after the pandemic.
“I think that Zoom has changed the landscape entirely,” Mishkind said. “I’ve got to believe that after the pandemic ends, the way that we practice law, hold conferences, depositions, even pretrials (will be different). ... It will make the ability for an attorney to be much more efficient rather than having to drive back and forth, or get on an airplane.”