The Shelter-in-Place Survival Guide for Attorneys Working from Home

While we’ve all watched at least one movie, reality show, read one book, met one person, or have one family member focusing on the SHTF / survivalism / doomsday / pandemic scenario and maybe there are a few reading this who enjoy hobby homesteading, gardening, foraging, camping, or remember everything they learned during their days of earning countless merit badges, most weren’t quite prepared for shelter-in-place-kitchen-table-replacing-local-school-while-trying-to-work-and-avoiding-panic-buying-crowds. We just weren’t. Even if you enjoyed bargain shopping, there’s little any of us can really do to prepare for a pandemic. Hoards of toilet paper won’t protect you. While liquor stores deliver, schools are closed and lawyers are losing their jobs. Courts are shut down.

It’s just not enough to say that we’re living through a very stressful time. Stating that we’re living through what will eventually be an event that will be taught in history classrooms as a terrifying pandemic taking place just shy of two decades after 9/11 doesn’t bring much comfort. And yet, here we are.

Since we have enough how-to-work-from-home-and-use-Zoom-and-oh-no-Zoom-is-leaking-your-data-while-Zoom-bombers-await-your-every-move articles out there, it’s time to write something new. It’s time to place the focus elsewhere. Your blood pressure is high enough. The last place you need to land is in the hospital because of a stroke or a heart attack. Or even a panic attack.

Embrace Work-Life Balance

Yes, it seems like a crazier concept now since you’re working where you live…without a choice in the matter. As a paralegal and a writer, I’ve worked from home since 2014 (full time and voluntarily…with children and married, no less). It can be very hard to separate your work from your life. However, it is necessary when you shelter in place. It is doubly necessary when you’re an attorney because you are part of a profession that carries a higher risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

If you have children who are school age, set specific time for school work. Set specific time for you to work as well. You can sit in an area where you can supervise, if necessary. If you live with a significant other, you can take turns supervising. Whatever you do, just set a starting time and an ending time with break times placed in. When it’s time to stop working, stop. Trust me when I tell you that just because you live where you work doesn’t mean that you must be available all of the time. Shut your laptop. Turn off your ringer on your cell phone if necessary. Do whatever you need to do. I have a small home office. My laptop stays in that room (for the most part). I work from 9 am until 6 pm (except during the summer because that room gets hot, so my schedule is 6 am to 2 pm). After that, it’s family time. My youngest son has special needs and currently does his speech therapy online. During that time, I don’t work. Before the pandemic, I blocked that time off his schedule. When he had OT, I did not work during that time, either. He has since graduated OT.

Use the Time Home to Get Involved in Some Hobbies You Love

I thought about using the term “self-care,” but there are a lot of people who despise that term. You can call it whatever you want. You’re home. You do not need to work and should not work 24/7. Use some of that time to get involved in some hobbies you love. There are lots of great free and low cost options for online yoga, fitness courses, virtual field trips, musicals, and recently SXSW announced that all of their movies would be put on Amazon Prime. Some of the SXSW movies are adult titles. So, please view with caution!

There are online dance classes. Play cards on pogo.com. If you used to draw or paint, start back up. Did you promise your kid you’d teach them how to do something? Now’s the time. It’s a great time to spend more time with them. Hit up Pinterest. Pinterest fails and successes are the best.

Turn Off the News

Selective ignorance will help you survive the pandemic. There’s no reason to listen to the news all day, every day. Limit your news watching to one hour per day. I was a news junkie through and through as a teenager in the 90s and remained one until my oldest son, now almost 22 years old and an essential employee (as is my 19 year old son) was about 6 years old when the Amish school house shooting happened. We had just moved back to Oklahoma. He had just started public school. Before that, we homeschooled and lived in Arkansas. Everything about that shooting terrified him. The media was obsessed with it (as they obsess over everything, including COVID-19). Since then, with the exception of podcasts (and using headphones), I’ve limited my news to one hour per day.

Selective ignorance will help you lower your stress level. As someone diagnosed with C-PTSD and OCD (I am very open about that on social media), it is a strategy that has personally helped me. You will not miss anything by limiting your news to an hour per day. If anything major happens, you’ll still see it on social media.

If Necessary, File for Unemployment

Many lawyers are either having their salary drastically cut or they’re being laid off. That adds to the stress of the home. While unemployment may not be the most attractive prospect to you and it may not cover all of your monthly expenses, it will help keep food on the table and some of the necessary expenses covered. Many credit card companies and utility companies are stepping up to offer financial assistance. If you haven’t done so yet, make sure that you reach out to them to make arrangements. While you’re probably tired of reading COVID-19 plans, check their websites. You may find their help plainly listed along with a phone number to call if you need help. For example, the City of Oklahoma City is suspending water shut-offs for unpaid bills and the electric company is suspending shut-offs for unpaid bills as well.

Finding Extra Work If You’re Unemployed

No, you do not have to sign up for freelancing platforms to find work (although you can if you would like to do so). You can find contract work on LinkedIn. Everyone, for the most part, knows that we all have to work from home at least temporarily. If it makes you feel better, you can use the term “remote” or the phrase “work from home” along with “attorney” or “lawyer” in your search.

You can use the exact same technique on Google. Type in “remote” along with the word “attorney” or “lawyer.” You could use your practice area as well to narrow the search. You’ll get a list of jobs. You can even turn on job alerts to have them emailed to you. The same principle works on indeed.com.

While there’s no guarantee of securing extra work, sometimes having a game plan helps ease some of the stress that comes along with being laid off and not knowing how you’ll make the ends meet.

Get Help If You Need It

There are a lot of places you can find support if you find that the stress is impacting your mental health. Don’t think you can shoulder the entire world. You can’t. No one ever plans for a pandemic. It’s stressful. There are resources. Here are a few to get you started:

Robin Bull is a full time professional writer living in Oklahoma with her husband, youngest son, three dogs, and a cat who is full of hate. Her two older sons are considered essential employees (whee). Robin has worked from home since 2014. She holds a BS in Paralegal Studies. You can follow (or contact) Robin on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram