Last week, I had to go to the Davidson County Courthouse to file some garnishment pleadings. With the adoption of e-filing and suspension of in-person court proceedings, filing garnishments is really the only reason I set foot in the building.
Once upon a time–well, about a year ago–I’d spend nearly every Friday morning there, on the fourth floor, checking in on all of the Chancery Court dockets.
Some days, I’d have a case in every courtroom, carefully timing my arrivals so that I could cover all four. On other days, I might just have one case, but I’d linger and roam the halls to see who was there and what cases they had. It was a great way to catch up with other lawyers, talk about our cases, watch interesting hearings, observe how the judges handled issues, and, really, just stay connected to what was going on (i.e. gossip).
But, last week, it was so strange, to be back in that building and it all be so quiet.
In fact, after I filed my pleadings in Chancery Court, I roamed the building, hoping to find a familiar face. Maybe somebody had an emergency injunction hearing. Or a custody battle. It would have been nice, honestly, to see another lawyer and simply say “This is really weird, isn’t it? How is your office handling all this?”
So, yes, please invent a geography-based App that tracks other lawyers and lets me know when they’re in the courthouse arguing interesting cases. Maybe include features that tell me how far away they are, what courtroom they’re in, and what legal issue they are arguing.
I miss the courthouse and seeing all my friends.
That’s one of the most common things I’ve heard from other lawyers during all of this. Back in July, a local bankruptcy lawyer said to me on the phone “I miss seeing everybody on Tuesdays.”
It’s even doubly strange to not see co-workers. Before I left Bone McAllester, the legal assistant outside my office asked me “Where will everybody go to ask their legal questions?” During my time there, my office tended to be the place where lost lawyers came looking for answers to their strangest and most obscure legal questions.
I didn’t always have the answers, but it was always fun talking through the issues and coming up with a strategy–something–to get their case moving forward.
Along with all the terrible other aspects, COVID has been isolating, especially in a profession that values civility, interaction, and communication. And, in a profession that, on its worst day, weaponizes incivility, hostility, and paranoia–both inside a firm and in the bar–the value of face-to-face interaction can’t be overstated.
So, when I say I miss seeing lawyers, I’m not just talking about the bar association happy hours or the networking mixers.
I’m not just talking about the spontaneity of running into that lawyer you haven’t seen in 3 years, or gossiping about how Lawyer X was taking her practice group to Law Firm Y, or just cornering a lawyer in court to run a weird legal issue past them.
I’m also talking about the value of sitting down in court next to your opposing counsel, who maybe sends you those e-mails with a tone that’s a bit too sharp, and seeing that he’s not that bad and maybe he just hits “send” before re-reading his e-mails.
So, yes, sign me up for Tinder for Lawyers.