Employment lawyers on the management side of the “v” (as in verses for you lucky enough never to have been sued) are hunkered down with our clients on the phone these days. We are figuring out minute by minute how to foretell the COVID-19 future, to determine what the feds will require, what the governors will mandate, and how to balance operational needs, financial insecurity, employee fear, leave from work and needs of clients for services, including vulnerable clients (patients, individuals who need medical equipment after discharge, patrons who need food and prescriptions – all the vital services that we assume are available and that businesses seamlessly provide in normal times).
As employment lawyers and clients do this hunkering down, we take time to ask after each other – how are you holding up, where are the kids – and to commiserate: this is scary; it feels different; will we get through (of course – Americans are tough). As Americans, as friends, we work together.
But through all of this I was unprepared at finding myself ending a conversation with one of my clients today with the phrase “love you.” Off the phone I was stopped in my tracks. Wait. What?! That was weird.
Then I realized. Although this may be the case with most lawyers who are longtime advisers of clients, as employment lawyers we connect over very human questions with our clients. They often are HR professionals committed to their people and to meeting their needs. We struggle to help our clients as they struggle to figure out how to do right by their employees. We become their friends, the people they turn to in times of human trials and whom we reach out to when times are tough to see if all is okay. We hold ourselves accountable for being there when they need us and are regretful if we make them wait.
So, that verbal slip revealed a truth. I do love my clients and worry about them, almost like family. And in these tough times, I will be there for them like family. It may be my job, but I realized today it is much more.
Be well everyone. We are Americans. We will get through this together.