Round of Applause for...Lawyers?
All over Florida, courtrooms have quotes, mottoes, and slogans preaching civility. The wording changes throughout the state, but the message remains the same - civility is expected, and anything less will not be tolerated. It is a regular reminder to treat others kindly. John F. Kennedy famously said, "Civility is not a sign of weakness." That is something that is often overlooked by too many attorneys - they think that if they are kind, they are weak; if they are not a bulldog 100% of the time, they are not representing their client well.
In the last month, the entire world has changed. Every person alive knows someone dealing with shutdowns, layoffs, or social distancing - for most, that's the worst thing going on. Unfortunately though, there are many dealing with much worse as Covid-19 has destroyed families, hospitals, and even cities.
In such a dire time, lawyers have been stepping up! The New York Post published an article on April 11 about Akiva Cohen, a lawyer in Manhattan, who while battling the coronavirus, started pro-bono work to help anyone with issues arising from Covid-19. Stories like this are popping up all over the place, even in the mainstream media.
Of course, it is not only lawyers who are providing services for free or reduced rates to help others during this time. People of all sorts are helping out. The sense of global community is something remarkable and something we've never seen in our lifetimes.
Lawyers however don't have the best reputation for anything associated with "good." Lawyer jokes mostly focus on a common theme, which is *spoiler alert* not civility. I am in a position where as a mediator and attorney, I can see more of the good and more of the bad from the legal profession than the average person.
Because of that, I can confidently say that lawyers are doing their part to step up, too. Legal services are usually not cheap, and therefore most of the time there is somewhat of a restricted access to lawyers. Getting professional help though, especially protecting one's rights during this unusual time, is a silver lining for some that have seen their entire world crumble in mere weeks.
Some examples or areas of where lawyers are doing to help or can be of service are:
- landlord/tenant disputes dealing with likely evictions
- properly filling out PPP loan applications
- wrongful termination
- free webinars on Covid-19 related issues
- teaching other lawyers how to use technology to continue working and serving clients
- reduced fees/rates for clients who can not afford what they could have 2 months ago
The list goes on and on. I am not here to be a cheerleader for lawyers and act as if what they're doing is beyond what other people all over the world are doing. But I think it's worth noting that most lawyers are good people and want to help when they can. And when I see the community of lawyers act as they have in the last month, I think it's appropriate to recognize the good - especially since society is so quick to point out the bad.