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The prescription for lawyering while ill

jeremy-rachlin-revMy family brought home more than a pair of mouse ears and a Figment doll from our recent trip to Disney World. Yes, my wife and I picked up that rare strain of super bug that thrives in a place where tens of thousands of germ-carrying kids from across the country and world come together. It is a small world (of viruses), after all.

The practice of law doesn’t stop when your head and chest are congested, your voice is on the fritz, you have intermittent headaches and hot flashes, you’re fatigued from fitful sleep, and you’re counting down the hours until you can take your next dose of cold medicine.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years for how to engage in effective lawyering while ill:

1) Find cold medicine that addresses your symptoms without affecting your focus. There are lots of cold medicines on the market. Use trial and error to find one that works for you. I am not advocating misuse or overuse of non-prescription drugs. But I have found that some cold medicines make me drowsy when they say they won’t, don’t work for as long as advertised, or are so stimulant-filled that I feel like I’ve just swallowed 15 cups of coffee. Look for the medicine that doesn’t make you drowsy and that gives you a few hours when your symptoms are sufficiently abated so that you can focus on work and not on how miserable you feel. And do not take more than the recommended maximum dose.

2) Save your voice. You can’t stop the phone from ringing when you are in the office. You will need to talk to clients, opposing counsel, and others. If you save your voice, you may be able to mask your illness for a few minutes before your voice starts to falter and you have to apologize and strain even harder to be heard. Shut your door, drink lots of un-caffeinated tea with honey, and try to avoid unnecessary office conversation. Not as many people as you think will miss your hot takes on Maryland basketball or Oscar blunders.

3) If your head is not totally clear, do not overthink. When we’re sick, our thinking may be clouded by bouts of fatigue, headache, or just symptoms that make us feel so bad it is hard to offer focused and nuanced legal thought. If you find yourself with trials to plan for, nuanced legal motions which require analysis, research, and response or client emails requiring detailed case analysis, refrain from pursuing these tasks until you find yourself of sound mind to do so. Otherwise, the result might be sloppy writing, poor strategy and confused (at best) clients, opposing counsel and judges.

4) If you’re really sick, stay home. It’s just not good office etiquette to get others in your office sick. Sometimes you may get the gentle nudge from a paralegal or a colleague along the lines of, “you sound terrible, maybe you should go home and get some rest.” This is code for “please get your germ-addled body out of our common breathing space as soon as possible while we wipe down every surface you have touched with Lysol wipes.” Not to mention the fact that, if you really do need to get work done productively, it may be easier to do so in your pajamas while working remotely from a home office in between power naps.

Fortunately, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My thoughts are clearing, my voice is strengthening, and I feel ready to take on minutiae in trust documents again.

Readers, do you have any go-to advice for dealing lawyering while ill?

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