Law in the time of influenza

jeremy-rachlin-revI proudly tout myself as one of the least “germaphobic” people I know. I have been known to extend the five-second rule to 15 seconds depending upon just how much dirt is visible on the floor. I have no compunctions about showering at the gym without sheathing my feet in shower shoes.

That said, I have a long-planned (and much-needed) vacation in 11 short days on a weeklong Caribbean cruise. My wife and I are living in fear every day that someone in our family will come down with the flu between now and Feb. 24. Indeed, every evening we make it to bed without anybody in the house spiking a fever, we feel some small victory over the invisible microbes that apparently stand ready to sneer down at the inefficacy of our flu-immunized bodies.

In recent weeks, I’ve come to realize how much of our daily lives as lawyers involves voluntarily exposing ourselves to the mass petri dish of infectious diseases. We shake hands with clients and potential clients in our offices. We shake hands and occasionally hug friends and colleagues at bar association events. And just walking through the front doors of any courthouse, sitting in the gallery, standing at counsel table, and touching any surface… it’s enough to turn you into Howard Hughes.

My office has invested in bottles of hand sanitizer at our reception desk, in all conference rooms and in each attorney’s office. We are particularly proud of our placement of the bottles in our conference rooms, where we took pains to locate them in assuming, yet well-traveled, locations. I personally have invested in travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer for my briefcase and my car. It’s become instinctive when I leave court to simply squirt some in my hands.

To quote nearly every doctor and public health official who has been piped through mass media: “If you are sick, stay home.” Yes, this advice applies to lawyers, too. Our clients do not wish to be around us if we are sick. Unquestionably, we cannot perform at our most competent selves when we are sick. And good luck to the opposing counsel explaining to the court why he/she refused your reasonable request for an extension for a filing or discovery deadline because you were laid up with the flu.

May the odds be ever in your favor as you try and keep your good health.

(Apologies to the estate of the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez for the parroting of his famously titled book. All cease-and-desist letters can be directed to the offices of The Daily Record.)

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