Our Lawyer Spotlight series highlights Illinois lawyers who are demonstrating the ideals of professionalism in their daily lives. These attorneys are teaching us how to adapt and thrive in the changing legal environment.
Juan Morado Jr. is a partner at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP, where he practices healthcare law. He is a member of the board of directors and past president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI) and a board director at the Public Interest Law Initiative.
How is Benesch adapting to the changing work environment?
The change really was seamless. Firm leadership acted quickly and decisively and made sure everyone was on the same page. That was outstanding because, as we all know, the pandemic upended home life too. My wife and I have two young children and their school shut down; so, our first concern was to plot out a new schedule that was going to work for our family.
The firm has been very supportive. Benesch currently is using a “Work from Where you Work Best” model, which allows each firm employee to choose the best work location to accomplish the tasks of the day. The firm also offers a benefit called Bright Horizons that includes help with nanny hiring and placement, online tutoring services and learning apps, and setting up in-person learning pods.
What challenges do healthcare attorneys face in navigating COVID-19?
Because the focus of my practice is on the healthcare industry, virtually every aspect of my clients’ operations has been impacted by the pandemic.
Early on, the challenges revolved around providing clients guidance on COVID and discovering what it meant for employees and business operations, such as which workers and departments were essential and who could hit the pause button. We guided clients through shutting down elective procedures, which meant they lost a big revenue generator. And even now we are continually working through guidelines and government-issued regulations that are constantly evolving. We’ve also worked with clients to provide strategic guidance on how to best position themselves to move forward or hit pause on their system expansion or facility renovation plans.
How do you maintain civility during stressful situations?
I think that when there are this many moving parts to a situation, and with so many unknowns and constant changes, it’s easy to get bogged down. Our profession is certainly demanding, even in normal times.
As a team, regular check-ins – we make it a point to meet virtually two days per week – are a way to balance the workload and to help us remember that we are all in this together. We’re all more likely to be patient and civil with each other when we’re in regular, personal communication.
Also, just personally, I think back to how many of my mentors would remind me that my career is a marathon. We all have limited amounts of time and energy and I choose to spend mine building relationships, helping others, and solving problems.
With everything that’s going on in the world, we all should put some extra effort into maintaining respectful relationships with each other. Showing respect for others is really a reflection of your personal integrity and, in my case, that of my firm. As a lawyer, your best skill will be your ability to be empathic. You may hardly ever agree with the opposing party’s view of things but trying to see things from their vantage point will make you a better attorney and a more civil one.
What long-term impacts will COVID-19 have on the legal profession?
The current model of working from home, to me, has proven that being in a physical office isn’t always required. I work just as efficiently — if not more so — while being at home. I believe we’ll see that as a long-term change in the profession: more flexibility around where and how we work.
In addition, as someone who is deeply involved in the community and serves as a member on a number of boards, I’m finding that using virtual meeting platforms for attending events like board meetings makes it far easier to balance this important work with family time. Eliminating travel time is a change I hope will remain – and I hope it will enable even more of my colleagues to devote time to community involvement and service.
How are you maintaining your work-life balance during the pandemic?
Continuing to keep a schedule has been key, as well as keeping family time within that schedule. I am the cook in the house, so I make breakfast and lunch for the family every morning and afternoon. Those are my breaks and otherwise, I focus on my work for the rest of the day.
My 6-year-old daughter reminds me when it’s 6 p.m. it is time to shut down and I am then focused on family time until the kids’ bedtime. Then I get back to work until I go to bed. As much as I can, I spend the weekends on family time, cooking, and watching TV.
Overall, despite the complexities of living through a pandemic, being able to spend more time with my family has been a treasure, and helps me remember that I am doing this work for them.
The Commission is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 – October 15. The annual event honors the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
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