August 5, 2020
Bob Buckley, partner at White, Graham, Buckley & Carr, is a regular columnist for The Examiner of East Jackson County. In his latest column, Buckley discusses the challenges – and occasional benefits – of the “new normal” created by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the many changes to the firm’s office, court appearances, jury trials and depositions.
The article, Back to Work, But With Many Adaptations, was published in the August 2 edition of The Examiner. An excerpt from the article is below.
My partners and I closed our office on March 23. With five lawyers, two paralegals and a receptionist, we are a small firm. There was some debate as to whether we were an essential business under the county “stay at home” order, but we decided that being together amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus was not a risk worth taking. All of us have access to our server from our homes. Thus, we were able to work.
I will confess that I was not very good in my home office. I set up my office in the kitchen that was too close to the refrigerator and my comfortable chair. There are too many distractions at home.
Between March 23 and May 15, when we re-opened our office, I went to my office a few times for a few hours to retrieve files. No one else was there during that time. Others came on occasion.
The legal world was not very active during that those two months. I had filed a couple of lawsuits prior to the shutdown and heard from lawyers for defendants in the new cases. One worked at Shook Hardy & Bacon, the biggest law firm in Kansas City, and I learned that all employees of his firm were told that they could not come to the office except for emergencies. It was comforting that others took the virus seriously.
I had grand ambitions to exercise and lose weight. I did manage to walk four or times a week with a friend for about 45 minutes which made me feel better, but not lighter. I also decided to finish cleaning up our basement as it was full of boxes from our move in October 2018.
Since my wife and I work together, we are used to being together a lot, but hours go by at the office when we don’t see each other. Fortunately, we have a big house so she can hide from me if she wants. I think our dog liked having us at home, although she sleeps most days. I joined her in slumber on occasion.
We have been back in the office for over two months, and it has been different. It took quite some time to get used to working again after eight weeks. The courts were initially closed, but they began reopening under limited circumstances. I have had four court appearances since May 15. “Zoom” was not a word in my regular vocabulary until March 15, but it is now a way of life. Two of my court appearances were by Zoom. I wore gym shorts and a T-shirt instead of a dress shirt and tie. On Zoom only my head is displayed, so no one cared.
In one of my court appearances, the sole purpose was to obtain a new trial date. We were set for trial in June in Platte County, but jury trials have been postponed so we had to obtain a new date. Our time with the judge lasted less than five minutes, which made me glad we did not have to drive to Platte City. Ordinarily we would have to make a personal appearance, but the virus saved us from making the journey.