I never thought I’d be living a bad sci-fi movie, but here we are: Downtown Milwaukee streets nearly deserted; people walking around wearing face masks; video conference meetings with people you are pretty sure are wearing pajama pants. There is no dispute that COVID-19 has turned our world upside down.
com jmkastner gmail Jill M. Kastner, UCLA School of Law 2000, is president of the State Bar of Wisconsin. She is the project director for the student legal aid program at Legal Action of Wisconsin Inc., Milwaukee.
I write this article from my new workspace – formerly known as my kitchen table. I joke about missing the ancient office copier (that is unbelievably slow but far superior to my home printer) and about having a desk I don’t have to clean off each night before setting the dinner dishes. But I’m worried. I’m worried about those who get sick, lose their jobs, and are on the front lines of this pandemic continuing to serve their patients, customers, and clients. I know it’s selfish considering the tragedies faced by other families, but I’m sad that my daughter, a high school senior, won’t have prom and might not have a graduation ceremony.
At times like these, I need to remind myself to be thankful for what I do have and be aware of the problems faced by others. I am thankful my family is safe and healthy (knock on wood). I am thankful to have a great job where I am able to work from home and serve my clients remotely. I am thankful for the extra time I am spending with my children – even if they are not thrilled with remote learning and yet another family game night.
Maybe some good can come out of this crisis. We are finally learning to use remote technologies and making changes to laws and procedures to increase efficiency. Before this, I hadn’t done much video conferencing or cloud sharing of documents. Over the past few weeks, they have become old hat. We’re learning to use remote technologies as well as developing or adapting new technologies for e-signing and other innovations that will, in the long run, be more efficient and enable us to serve clients better. No doubt, there will be changes in the laws, procedures, and technology that will make courts and the practice of law more efficient (hint: maybe parties don’t have to appear in person for a simple status conference).
But I fear the bad will feel overwhelming. People, including attorneys, have lost their jobs. Many people who managed to keep their jobs will have reduced income because of the pandemic. Some have lost or will lose their homes and their means of transportation, will be victims of scams, and will be burdened by huge medical or other debt.
What can we do about it? Well, the phrase I’ve heard over and over again is: “We’re all in this together.” If that’s true, then let’s make certain we’re doing what we can to help each other.
Sign up for Wisconsin Free Legal Answers as an attorney volunteer. You can help provide free legal answers and advice online to low-income Wisconsin residents from the comfort of your own computer. The State Bar of Wisconsin provides the insurance, it is limited scope, and you can answer as many or as few questions as you have time for. Visit https://wi.freelegalanswers.org/.
Join the Modest Means Panel, to provide reduced-cost services to qualifying, moderate-income Wisconsinites, at www.wisbar.org/formembers/probono/Pages/Modest-Means-Program.aspx.
Register with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Legal Action of Wisconsin, where you can receive training and provide free services to qualifying low-income individuals. They are expecting a tidal wave of unemployment, eviction, and consumer debt cases as a direct result of COVID-19. Visit www.legalaction.org/volunteer-lawyer-project.
Maybe some good can come out of this crisis. We are finally learning to use remote technologies and making changes to laws and procedures to increase efficiency.