August 2020 Bar Bulletin
When COVID-19 forced me to work from home, Tippy, my dachshund puppy was very pleased. But breaking him of his barking habit during client Zoom calls or his love for jumping into my lap and in front of my webcam dampened his enthusiasm for COVID stay at home companionship. At least at first, though not by a lot. Trust me when I tell you that Tippy enjoys his new role as my home office assistant.
Most of us are adjusting to the reality of law practice under circumstances we never thought we’d face — a global pandemic with the accompanying sharp economic downturn. Lay-offs and furloughs strike hard at the legal profession, but even harder at the vulnerable populations we serve as lawyers. And many attorneys are left uncertain of how we will sustain our practices, whether we work in law firms, in-house, as solos or other law-related jobs.
How do we care for those who depended on us before the pandemic? What about our families, our co-workers, our clients and those who suffer under poverty and all forms of discrimination? We can’t stop providing our counsel or withdraw our representation or financial support to those providing legal assistance in the most vulnerable communities, such as Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Northwest Justice Project, Columbia Legal Services and the KCBA Housing Justice Project.
COVID-19 has not ended the legal needs of those who can’t afford to pay us — instead the need is more acute. As Jorge Baron, executive director of NWIRP, says about his organization’s response to the pandemic, “the current crisis has had multiple layers of impacts on the communities we serve.” In addition to immigrant and refugee communities falling ill to the virus, “they are also facing severe impacts from the economic crisis as so many others lose their jobs or see their work hours cut.” And because undocumented workers are not eligible for any form of government COVID relief, these multiple challenges make it “even more urgent for these communities to have access to legal aid that can help protect their legal rights.”
Jorge Baron and his legal aid sisters and brothers fight on heroically amidst the health and economic challenges that have become our ever-present COVID reality.
The King County Bar Association fully commits to providing support to its members during the global pandemic through its sections, committees, volunteers and staff. Our website www.kcba.org is stacked with programs, information and tools for addressing COVID in your practice and in life. Click on the tab labelled “COVID-19 Resources” and you will find among them CLEs and support for topics including court resources, housing justice issues, law office management and working remotely.
Among some of the popular KCBA offerings are a remote bench trial CLE from the Judiciary and Litigation Committee and King County Superior Court and we will also have the following section CLEs.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Section
Virtual Mediation and Facilitation in the Age of COVID-19
Compare/contrast virtual platforms, protecting security & confidentiality of meetings and best practices.
Business Law Section
Privacy Considerations During a Pandemic
A primer on how privacy regulations are impacting the progress towards COVID-19 control, and an open discussion about privacy concerns in the face of public health needs.
Family Law Section
Tips and Practices for Supervised Visits During the Time of COVID-19
List of resources of supervisors who are doing in-person visits and those doing electronic visits and standards from the Supervised Visitation Network.
In addition, our Housing Justice Project has a four-part series on evictions, “Eviction Defense and the Changing Legal Landscape due to COVID-19” which offers an overview of eviction practice pre and post COVID-19, changes in the law related to COVID-19 and critical skills and strategies for representing tenants in post COVID-19.
The KCBA remote trial CLE was virtually attended by over 700 participants — no wonder with the KCBA Judiciary and Litigation Committee (Jane Morrow, Isham Reavis, Colin Mieling, Katie Comstock and Armando Padron-Cruz) and two excellent judicial perspectives provided by Judges Steve Rosen and Judge David Keenan. Remote bench trials, and possibly even jury trials, will be a part of our COVID reality. Already, remote mediations, arbitrations and depositions are commonplace as we struggle to keep the wheels of justice turning, while keeping ourselves and others safe and healthy.
While our attention is rightfully focused on keeping ourselves and our families safe during this time, we cannot forget those who toil in service industries that make this work possible. My brother Richard works in the grocery business, and we are so proud of him and of his dedication to help put food on our tables. But COVID’s disparate impact on poor communities and communities of color cannot be denied, as low wage workers struggle to provide for their families. And as COVID has cruelly ravaged the elderly and infirm in their homes and in group homes, our prisons have not been spared its rampage.
All of this means we must, even in these difficult times, find the energy to speak out, to support financially and to provide pro bono representation to those marginalized even further by COVID-19.
Call us or message us at KCBA. We can help connect you to pro bono opportunities and help you find ways to serve. It’s what distinguishes us as lawyers.
My office assistant Tippy and I wish you strength, patience, good health and perseverance. We’re going to need it.
John McKay is the President of the King County Bar Association and a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.