Our Lawyer Spotlight series highlights Illinois lawyers who are demonstrating the ideals of professionalism in their daily lives.
Chirag H. Patel is Senior Counsel in the Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP Chicago office. Chirag represents clients in litigation matters throughout the United States and focuses on commercial litigation, e-commerce & data privacy, and class action defense.
How is your firm adapting to the changing work environment?
Fortunately, our firm had a great infrastructure in place that allowed for an easy transition to a work-from-home environment during the pandemic. Our office culture emphasizes “get your work done and do good work” over “showing your face” around the office. While we missed the social interactions with our colleagues, we were able to continue our work without much disruption.
What challenges do attorneys in technology and commercial litigation face in navigating COVID-19?
The significant challenge in litigation has been to move cases toward a final resolution when we are unable to set cases for a final trial or hearing. Discovery is also a challenge as depositions are often more effective in person. For the most part, however, counsels and parties have been shown flexibility to proceed with alternative and creative methods of conducting discovery and dispute resolution to allow the parties to move the litigation forward. For example, I have conducted numerous depositions and two five-day arbitrations by remote video. With planning and the assistance of trial vendors, we could complete these proceedings nearly as effective as in-person proceedings.
How do you maintain civility in your practice during stressful situations?
It is common advice, but by taking a moment to step away from the phone or computer before a heated exchange. We need to protect our representations, and often that means being remaining civil when the opposing party is making that very difficult.
At times that means preparing a draft email, allowing some time to pass, and then revisiting the draft to adjust the tone to ensure it remains professional and civil. If I would be comfortable with a judge eventually seeing that email, then I will send the email.
Ultimately, the client comes first and they are better served by avoiding unproductive exchanges.
What long-term impacts will COVID-19 have on the legal profession?
I hope that all long-term impacts are positive changes that make our practice more efficient. I expect that remote court proceedings, depositions, and hearings will become commonplace in the litigation. There will be instances where in-person proceedings remain preferable. However, a year of remote proceedings will be proof to many that they are a viable and cost-effective way to proceed with litigation.
I also anticipate changes in the business of law. Many attorneys will likely shift to permanent work-from-arrangements, which may have a correlative effect on how law firms manage their office space. With more staff working from home, law firms may opt for smaller spaces with shared or “hotel” offices. These changes should benefit clients, attorneys, and law firms as they will provide flexibility, save time, and reduce costs.
How are you maintaining your work-life balance during the pandemic?
The primary benefactor of my shift to work from home has been my dog, Astro. I shifted the time that I formerly spent commuting to work to take three to five walks a day. These walks help break up my day and ensure I step away from the computer.
I know others try to remain on a regular schedule with “work hours” to create a division between work and personal time. I think that’s a great idea but I have challenges with that, especially when work is busy. My walks are a different way of creating that separation. Lastly, I try to find other activities I enjoy where I can be outside and away from other people – like skiing and hiking.
Our Lawyer Spotlight recognizes attorneys throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews with attorneys like Chirag Patel here.