Thoughts From A Working-At-Home-Attorney & Mom

COVID-19 has changed our entire way of living and working. In fact, as I sit here writing this post, I have one child on my lap eating an ice cream sandwich, another playing his 800th hour of Fortnite for the day, and a third eating chocolate kisses in my bed. Instead of being at my stand-up desk in my quiet office on the 8th Floor overlooking beautiful Rapid City, I’m at home and my desk is covered in lesson plans from school, art projects, and empty coffee cups. I have been kicked off my computer throughout the day for my kids’ scheduled class Zoom meetings and required online videos. I have taught math, reading, and science, in between taking calls from clients, writing a brief, and responding to the Court. My kids seem to finally understand that I am not at home to play, but to teach and work. I’ve been up since 5:00 a.m. My first email went out at 6:00 a.m. I will likely log off tonight sometime after everyone is finally in bed.

But I’m not alone. Millions of other men and women are doing the exact same thing at this very moment. And that brings me great comfort. We are truly all in this together. We are forging new ground. So I offer you some quick tips that I have found helpful, hopefully you will too.

1. Work When you Can

I am a morning person and my kids sleep in. Therefore, I get up extra early and start working. I use the quiet of the morning to tackle big, important tasks – tasks I do not want to be interrupted while doing. I write briefs. I answer important and critical emails. When my kids get up, I take a couple hours to get them breakfast, do some homeschooling, and be a mom. If there are important calls to take or emails to answer, I take the call, I answer the email. I dedicate another work session work mid-morning and when my husband gets home from work in the evening. Find what times work best for you and your family. Perhaps it is in the evening. Perhaps it is on the weekend. Be flexible, but diligent. Your clients, employers, and staff are depending on you.

2. Set Boundaries

I am fortunate to have a home office. However, it is on the main floor and easily accessible to my kids. At times, I like the fact that I can be working and watching what my kids are doing at the kitchen table or in the living room. At other times, I wish they could not see me. After four weeks of being a stay-at-home mom, teacher, and lawyer, my kids seem to finally understand that when I am in the office, at the computer, or on the phone, I am not be interrupted – they have to pretend I’m at work. This was especially hard for my four-year old to understand. (She is the one currently sitting on my lap.)

Boundaries are also important with your clients. If your clients know you are at home and will answer emails and take calls at any time, clients will call you and expect you to answer at any time. Make it clear what your hours are at home.

3. Check in with Your Staff

I listened to a webinar the other day and an individual mentioned that he starts his day with a video-chat with his staff to maintain cohesion and to ensure that everyone is on task. This individual was in a state under lockdown and mentioned it was also a way to break the feelings of isolation. I think this is a fantastic idea. Check in with your staff. It does not have to be by video. Call. Email. Ask them how they are doing. Ask them if they need anything. We all need each other now more than ever. My staff is one of the major reasons I have not lost my mind during all of this time.

4. Be Accessible to and Upfront with Your Clients

Be accessible and upfront with your clients about your status. Assure them that even though you are working from home, you are here for them and are going to continue to offer them the very best services. On your voicemail, give them a number you can be reached at home. If you have the ability, have your calls forwarded from your office to your cell phone. In your email signature, put in language that you are working from home and all return communication needs to be through email or phone calls.

You should also be upfront with your clients about the status of their case. Discuss expected delays. How or what we can be doing during this time to continue to move the case forward. People appreciate information.

I have amazing clients and every client that has called during this time has likely heard my children in the background (despite my best efforts to hide from my kids or how fast I try to click the mute button). But by being upfront, and maintaining my professionalism, everyone has been more than understanding.

I hope this was helpful. I have to go referee an argument and help my kindergartner go over her sight words. Above all, know that you are not alone. Ask for help when you need it. Take care of yourself.

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Women's History Month: Celebrating our own Barbara Anderson Lewis

March is Women’s History Month – a month to commemorate and draw special attention to the remarkable women who have played a role in shaping our nation through their work, actions, and words. And Lynn Jackson is proud to highlight its very own, Barbara Anderson Lewis.

Barb was born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. She is one of five children. From an early age, Barb was taught the value of hard work and grit. She was expected to keep up with (and often out did) her older brother on the family ranch.

After graduating from Black Hills State University and realizing she had a natural ability to argue, and argue effectively, as well as strong analytical skills, Barb decided to go to law school. Barb relates that her decision was a “stretch for what women did” at that time.

Barb entered law school at the University of South Dakota in 1981. While currently the USD Law School is composed of closer to 50% women and 50% men, Barb recalls women made up only about a third of her class.

When asked if law school was different for women in the early 80’s, Barb boldly explained that it never felt different her. Barb approached law school with an “anything you can do, I can do better” attitude. Having grown up working along side the men in her life, Barb never thought being a woman should make any situation different for her. Barb explained that she never really felt a bias because she was there to do a job, and no one was going to stop her.

With that attitude, Barb became the first woman associate at Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith, PC in Sioux Falls. And the day she had her son, Barb was voted as the first woman partner at Woods, Fuller, Shultz & Smith.

For 38 years Barb has been an extraordinary member of the legal community. She has represented hundreds of individuals, corporations, and other entities involved in disputes through an active trial practice. Barb has also argued on behalf of clients in appeals to the South Dakota Supreme Court, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

At Lynn Jackson, Barb is affectionately referred to as “Law Mom.” Her calm, even demeanor, vast knowledge, and experience makes her often sought after by her partners and colleagues. Barb has been a powerful mentor to many.

As a fellow woman litigator, I feel immense gratitude to Barb and the path she has paved. Barb exudes what it means to be a litigator. She is impeccable with her words. She teaches put in the work before hand, pay attention to details, know the facts. Timeliness and respectfulness are truths she holds dear. As a result, her reputation in the legal community and with the Court is without exception.

Barb, Lynn Jackson thanks you for being a valuable member of our Firm and making a difference in the legal community.

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Surviving the Sturgis Rally – Tips if You are Involved in a Motorcycle Accident

The 79th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is upon us. With it come thousands of bikers. And while we all do our best to drive even more safely and cautiously during this time, there will inevitably be a few accidents during this time.

The following are legal tips for what to do if you are involved in such an accident:

1. Do Not Leave the Scene – This may seem obvious, but it is a Class 6 felony if you leave the scene of an accident. All drivers are required by law to immediately stop when they are involved in an accident – regardless of who caused the accident. Drivers also have a duty under the law to render “reasonable assistance” to anyone that is injured as a result of the accident. “Reasonable assistance” is not defined by statute, but would include calling 911.

2. Call Law Enforcement – It is a Class 2 misdemeanor if you fail to give notice of an accident to law enforcement when someone has been injured in the accident or there is obvious property damage to the vehicle(s) or motorcycle(s). Call law enforcement right away and inform them that there has been an accident.

3. Exchange Information with the Other Driver – You are required by law to provide the other driver your name, address, and the name and address of the owner and license number of the vehicle/motorcycle you are driving if involved in an accident. That is all. Keep your conversation with the other driver to a minimum. You never know what they may try to use against you later if a lawsuit is initiated.

4. Take Pictures – Take pictures of the scene, the damage to the vehicles/motorcycles, skid marks, etc., and provide them to your insurance company.

5. Do Not Guesstimate – Unless you were looking at your speedometer when it happened or you have a ruler in your back pocket, do not estimate or “guesstimate” how fast you were going or how far behind or close you were to the other driver. Certainly, be helpful and cooperative with the officer investigating the accident, but unless you know for certain, do not guess or estimate. This information could be used in a later lawsuit.

6. Call Your Insurance Company – Most, if not all, insurance policies require that you report any accidents you are involved in. Do it and help them investigate the claim.

7. Contact an Attorney – If you are severely injured as a result of the accident, or an insurance company is not paying on the claim, call an attorney who may be able to help you. The litigation attorneys at Lynn, Jackson, Shultz & Lebrun are experienced and knowledgeable in this area.

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