A Pandemic Retrospective for Washington Law

Cover of March 2021 Bar News

It’s almost quaint to think back at how naïve and hopeful many of us were a year ago.

On March 23, Gov. Jay Inslee—like many governors around the country—issued a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Washington, which was originally planned to last two weeks. At the time, few Washingtonians would have guessed that it would take a year to start seeing a proverbial light at the end of the COVID tunnel.

To say that COVID-19 affected the practice of law is like saying the internet turned out to be fairly popular. For a profession that was largely unprepared for shutdowns of physical offices and in-person hearings, COVID-19 resulted in whiplash for much of the law; yet the law adapted.

Now, as we approach a full year of life during a pandemic, Washington State Bar News is attempting to unpack some of the changes we’ve undergone, the problems we’ve overcome, and the troubles still on the horizon.

On March 31, a statewide moratorium on evictions is scheduled to expire. Although the moratorium has been extended multiple times before, the problem of uncollected rent, fearful tenants, and struggling landlords remains so large it’s often referred to as a “tsunami.” In this issue, we examine the various plans in Washington to prevent that tsunami and whether they’ll work.

In this issue, a solo practitioner and WSBA Governor, Sunitha Anjilvel, shares how COVID-19 impacted her family law practice and how her practice has adjusted. Likewise, Sherry Bosse Lueders asks whether the law office will look the same again or if remote work is here to stay, while Daniel C. Ochs dives into the logistics of a hybrid model for law firms.

Mediator Kathleen Wareham explains why, despite the unexpected change, remote mediating isn’t all bad and actually has a number of benefits; and Shane Crew speaks with a number of legal professionals to share their experiences managing depositions, mediations, hearings, and trials.

And for a broader view, we share the results of a WSBA survey in which we asked members from across the state and in a variety of practice areas how the pandemic has affected them.