Washington Legal Community Steps Up During Coronavirus

woman's hands making a heart shape over a sunset landscape

Updated May 14, 2020:

Lately it seems like even normal social pleasantries no longer apply. That gut reaction we all have to ask how someone’s day is going is almost silly when we’re all at some base level of not OK.

With so much going wrong with the world, it’s heartening to know that there are still stories of people doing good, compassionate, and often selfless work to make things better for others.

In a recent message to Washington’s legal community, WSBA President Rajeev Majumdar wrote, “I want to thank you for sending in inspirational stories of legal professionals being their best. One member reported that four colleagues responded so rapidly to a pro bono request to help an immunocompromised senior neighbor put her affairs in order that the neighbor now counts those lawyers among her life’s ‘abundance of blessings.’”

The WSBA is asking our members to share their stories of “legal professionals doing whatever it takes.” If you have a positive tale to share, please let us know on Facebook or Twitter using #WSBACOVID19; you can also continue to send them to barleaders@wsba.org.

Below are some of the early responses to that request, including two shout-outs from a large Seattle firm and one personal essay on finding the positive during these times.

Lawyers Helping Hungry Children, Sent in by Diane Cornell and Maureen Mannix

Like so many annual events this spring, the Lawyers Helping Hungry Children (LHHC) luncheon was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, LHHC redirected its energy and continued in its commitment to fight hunger in Washington.

LHHC has worked closely with one of its benefactors, Emergency Feeding Program (EFP)—which provides 600,000 nutritional meals per year throughout King County—to meet the rapidly growing number of people who can no longer afford to put a meal on their table. Since 1997, the EFP and its partner agencies have furnished nutritional food to those in need—expanding on standard diet plans to now include special-needs diets, culturally sensitive diets, and no-cook diets for people experiencing homelessness.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, LHHC has volunteered in the EFP warehouse and assisted with snack bags that include a design, cartoon, personal message, and/or riddle. LHHC and friends have distributed over 1,000 snack bags for children in temporary day care at public schools so their parents may continue to work, and 750 snack bags for first responders.

LHHC also supports other organizations like CARE, which annually feeds 10 million children in 26 countries; the Seattle Children and Youth Summer Food Service Program, which provides over 347,000 meals and snacks to local infants and children; and Northwest Harvest, which, among other services, provides basic food to infants and toddlers that will lead to healthy physical and cognitive development.

The COVID-19 outbreak has raised many questions as to what the future holds. However, one thing is for certain: LHHC intends to continue with its mission to help stop childhood hunger throughout Washington.

To volunteer with the LHHC, please contact LHHC Chair David Otto at dotto@martindavislaw.com or 206-906-9346. Visit the LHHC website to learn more.

Sent in by Joanna P. Boisen, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP Pro Bono Counsel

Kate Tylee Herz organized a blood drive in a time where giving blood is more important than ever before – donations are down by 80 percent. She was able to fill 65 slots and Tacos Chukis reached out and offered all donors free lunch.

Claudia Lin spent last weekend helping a small business, Chu Minh, by taking orders and making free food deliveries to [Davis Wright Tremaine] colleagues. Since long before the pandemic, the owner has been offering free food to the homeless. This weekend [Lin] is doing the same for Jade Garden.

“Spring,” By Rose Weston, Assistant Attorney General, Government Compliance & Enforcement Division

What if … what if the virus is here to help us?

To help us reset. And remember. To help us remember what is truly important. Like reconnecting with family and our community of friends and loved ones. Like reducing travel so that the environment, the skies, the air, and our lungs all get a break. Parts of China are seeing blue sky and white clouds for the first time in forever because factories are shut down. The canals of Venice are filled with clear blue water for the first time in memory because there are no longer motorboats constantly churning up sediment.

Working from home rather than commuting to work means less pollution and more personal time. It means reconnecting in meaningful ways with our family, as we’re spending more time at home.

Perhaps this is an invitation to turn inward, to turn toward a sense of deep meditation to self-soothe, rather than reaching outward to distractions that ultimately do the opposite of soothe. Perhaps this is an invitation to ask ourselves what is really important in the larger picture of our lives. To face our mortality. To reach out to those who mean so much to us. To forgive those around us for their faults and remember our love and connection to them. To check back into truly “living” life rather than simply enduring, and working, working, working. To experience the presence of grace for all.

And the simple act of washing our hands – how did that become a new thing that we needed to remember? But yes, we did. We had even lost touch with the simple pleasure of clean hands.

So, what if this virus is really an ally in our evolution? In our remembrance of what it means to be connected and humane? To be living a simpler life, and to be more kind and less of a drain on our environment and the people around us?

This is an offering from my heart this morning. Offered as another perspective. Another way of understanding this virus, this unfolding, this evolution. It was time for a change. We all knew that. And change has arrived. What will we do with it?

*The author has asked to note that this essay is based on a format by G.K. Gill.