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.
Perry Browder is an Alton, Ill.-based personal injury attorney and the managing partner of the mesothelioma/asbestos group at Simmons Hanly Conroy. He manages the firm’s more than 50 asbestos attorneys who are organized into multiple asbestos trial teams. Perry also oversees all asbestos cases to ensure they are handled in an efficient manner that maximizes results and minimizes hassle for clients and their families.
How has your firm adapted to the changing work environment?
Simmons Hanly Conroy quickly transitioned to remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic. We expanded our use of technology for remote capabilities like signing up clients for representation, filing their cases, investigative work up, and preparing and presenting for depositions.
As our clients who have mesothelioma are terminally ill, our priority has been their safety. Because we now offer regular virtual meetings through various online platforms to our clients, our legal teams have been able to check in with our clients much more frequently. This is an unexpected benefit that allows us to better accommodate our clients’ health needs.
The safety of our colleagues and co-workers is also a priority. Our remote work arrangements have increased our collaboration and communication with our co-workers, which has made us more efficient and productive.
What challenges do attorneys in personal injury law face in navigating Covid-19?
The most significant challenge for our attorneys is to get our clients their day in court in front of a jury. We recently had an in-person jury trial that was completed with safety measures in place. The jury heard the case and returned a $10 million verdict in favor of Mr. Pete, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after unloading bags of raw asbestos from the New Orleans docks.
The courts have done an amazing job of keeping the cases on schedule and we have been able to bring cases to resolution. Since our clients are terminally ill, a quick resolution is important as they need recovery for medical care, support of their family, and their well-being. With the vaccine in place and the current decline in Covid-19 cases, our hope is to get our clients their day in court.
How do you maintain civility in your practice during stressful times?
Patience and flexibility! This pandemic has taught all of us that we need to be patient, supportive, and understanding of the stresses on our clients, co-workers, court personnel, and even our opponents.
Scheduling times to discuss matters by phone or Zoom is crucial to maintain some normalcy. Accomplishing our tasks and being respectful of others’ workloads can still be productive and still provide a method for dispute resolution.
Because we work on a regular basis with our opponents, we can show flexibility to resolve matters and not just let work drift along. Being respectful and understanding is essential. If we cannot reach a conclusion, we know the case will be tried soon.
What long-term impact will Covid-19 have on the legal profession?
We clearly will rely on technology and innovation even more. At our firm, we expect a future with a hybrid approach of remote and in-person representation. This will bring added efficiency and cost savings, but an even more personal approach, especially for our clients.
We will be able to check in more frequently with a Zoom meeting so that we can interact by hearing and seeing one another. As our clients are ill and all over the country, we will be able to interact on their schedule and not impose overly lengthy visits, especially when they are having a difficult day.
In an odd sense, we will be able to bring the best of both worlds to them. We will also be able to accommodate family members who are located all over to address their questions and concerns.
How have you maintained work-life balance during the pandemic?
By relying on family and co-workers. We all have had good days and bad days. On the bad days, knowing when to reach out for support and reassurance has been helpful for me. On good days, being able to support others has been rewarding.
The Illinois State Bar Association recently hosted a wellness seminar that was excellent. One key takeaway was that we should not let a bad day become days or weeks. Great advice!
Over the past year, I’ve missed the collaboration and friendships that in-person work brings, but I have also learned to look forward to remote work where I can be even more productive without workplace distractions. However, I am ready for what comes next. We are almost there and I greatly look forward to meeting in person again.
Our Lawyer Spotlight recognizes attorneys throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews with attorneys like Perry Browder here.