You probably won’t be surprised by the trend that emerges when one glances through the most-read articles published to NWSidebar in 2020.
As of this writing, after about nine months of COVID-19—with a vaccine off-ramp still months out and new spikes in cases resulting in yet another statewide lockdown—much has been learned about, adapted to, and coped with regarding the pandemic that has turned all of daily life upside down … and then spun it a few more times just for good measure.
The topsy-turvy effect of COVID-19 was perhaps felt most strongly in the legal profession, a system that is notoriously allergic to sudden change. However, even this profession known for face-to-face interactions, long hours at the office, and signatures in ink was no longer able to stick to its old ways when public health suddenly mandated remote work, electronic documents, and Zoom calls.
Despite these massive challenges, legal professionals learned to adapt, figured out how to deal with their new situation, and were happy to share what they learned to help the profession as a whole. You can see this in many of the topics written about in NWSidebar over the past year.
Read on to see what piqued the most interest in 2020.
There’s an oft-repeated quote by the becardiganed children’s TV host Mr. Rogers to “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Almost as soon as the economic impacts and other hardships caused by COVID-19 began to be known, legal professionals throughout Washington found ways to help. This article highlights only a few early examples, and throughout 2020 WSBA members proved tireless in developing innovative solutions and devoting vital pro bono hours to help those in need.
Few people have become as iconic in the legal community, or even in popular culture, as the late Supreme Court Justice, and widely lauded feminist icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In this piece, Carolyn Ladd looks back at one of Ginsburg’s most impactful dissents during her time on the bench.
One of the more common calls the WSBA receives from the public involves requests for lawyer referrals. While the WSBA isn’t able to provide such referrals, we do maintain a massive catalog of WSBA members. In 2020, the WSBA overhauled the look of our Legal Directory, and even added a few new features to boot, making it easier for anyone to browse the listings of licensed Washington legal professionals for contact information, practice area, discipline history, and more.
Though it can be hard to remember life before COVID, as the virus was beginning to become the main topic of conversation, the WSBA was quick to provide guidance about the emerging health risks, resources available, and things to consider going forward. Needless to say, early predictions about “increased teleworking and teleconferencing as the situation worsens” barely scratched the surface.
We typically associate lawyers with the courtroom or conference room after something has happened—not on the streets as it’s happening. But as massive civil uprisings and protests spread across the country (and beyond) that resulted in often violent clashes between police and protesters, many legal professionals took a more active role. In this article, Abbey McMahon, the legal observer coordinator for the National Lawyers Guild Seattle Chapter, explains who legal observers are, what they do, and why they felt it necessary to put themselves in situations where they too “were subjected to the police’s use of blast balls and pepper spray.”
The early part of 2020 brought a number of shuffles on the Washington Supreme Court. In January, we were fortunate enough to lob a few questions at the newly sworn Chief Justice (at the time), Debra L. Stephens, who came in to fill the remaining term of retired Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst.
If there was one topic that most dominated every lawyer’s mind, it had to be working remotely. In a profession more associated with face-to-face meetings and ink signatures than Zoom calls and e-filing, the adjustment to working from home was a big one. In this, one of many NWSidebar articles devoted to the topic of working remotely, Jordan L. Couch outlined a few top priorities for lawyers in order to adapt to their new digital world.
Approximately eight years after it was created, the WSBA’S Limited License Legal Technician (LLLT) Program was officially sunset by the Washington Supreme Court. Licensed LLLTs in good standing were allowed to continue practicing and the WSBA will maintain the license, and upcoming LLLTs “in the pipeline” were permitted to complete their license requirements; after which, however, the WSBA will no longer offer new licenses.
With law students facing multiple unprecedented challenges, the Washington Supreme Court in June issued an order granting diploma privilege to law school graduates allowing them to become licensed to practice in the state without taking the summer bar exam. There was no shortage of conflicting opinions about the decision, which continues to spark conversations about the bar exam’s role in determining competent and qualified lawyers. In this article, Jordan L. Couch argued in favor of students who opted not to take the exam, examining the skills we want new lawyers to have and how the decision take the exam itself can be a measurement of a skilled lawyer.
When faced with the prospect of a highly contentious general election and a highly infectious virus, many states in the U.S. took swift action to expand mail-in voting. Though the sudden shift in traditional electoral systems dominated headlines nationwide up to and even after the election, mail-in voting has been the norm in Washington for over a decade, with little controversy at the time it was enacted. This article dives into the legal history of Washington’s mail-in voting system, how it came about, how it works, and what we’ve learned.