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by Vault Law Editors | May 08, 2020

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With several weeks of the “new normal” under our belts, we checked in with practicing attorneys to see how they have adjusted to working from home and what advice they have for law students who will be working remotely this summer. Read on to see what they had to say.

Setting up a schedule and a workspace

“Incorporate a ‘workday’ structure including lunch and mental health breaks into your routine to maintain a sense of normalcy.”

“It is so important to set hours and designate a space in your home that you can call a workspace. Understanding that people live in small spaces, you don't want to overlap a workspace and a relaxing space.”

“[Take] walks before/after work (to clear your head since you aren’t commuting).”

“[Set up a] workspace by a window that you can keep open for fresh air; get up and shower/work out if you can because it’s hard to be motivated later in the day.”

“Vary your workspace, but not too often. Structured schedule and breaks. Find a hobby or something new to work on outside of work. Keep work and regular life as separate as you can make it.”

“Create a workspace for yourself that minimizes distractions where possible. That means being able to take a telephone call where you feel comfortable talking freely. At the same time, don’t be afraid to shake up the location as that can give a new boost of motivation. Do one thing for yourself that normalizes the day (dress up, do your hair, etc.)”

“Have a structured schedule, but feel free to switch it up when you start to lose focus. Pick a friend or colleague each day of the week to check in on or catch up with, even if it is just for five minutes.”

“Try to set work/personal boundaries as much as you can. Take mini breaks throughout the day. Stay hydrated!”

“It may sound silly, but remember to stand and stretch!  Many students may be using the same device to work, study, and stream games or Netflix. It can be very easy to open up the computer, and suddenly hours go by on a keyboard and in a chair. A few months ago, I set up three timers during the day (11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.) to stretch and look out of a window.  Those breaks really help reset my focus and give my eyes and body a break.  Give it a try!”

Building and maintaining connections

“Get to know the attorneys and ask lots of questions about their work lives since it'll be hard for you to get a sense for your workplace! Put yourself out there and get to know people.”

“It’s a service profession. Don’t be shy to email partners. They’re busy but also desperately need to see/talk to people. They’re also likely looking to hand out work or [they may] have some sort of question. There’s no more ‘facetime requirement,’ so make sure you’re not being forgotten by the partners while everyone’s home.”

“Check in often to maintain visibility.”

“Don't feel like you're bugging an associate/partner by introducing yourself in an email [or] checking in with them about any potential projects. Now is the time you would be walking through the hallways and introducing yourself/making a first impression. Let them know you're here and eager to help out in any way you can.”

“Volunteer for non-billable activities like articles writing to stay engaged when you're not busy.”

Adjusting your mindset

“Be kind to yourself—you’re not just working from home, you’re also living at work. The lack of boundaries is jarring and can be detrimental to mental health. But frequent team check-ins and trying to work only within business hours should help.”

“Focus on things that are within your sphere of influence and take time daily to list (yes, list) all the things you are thankful for. At the start of the pandemic, I fell into the social media/news trap and focused on all the horrible things that were happening outside my control. This negative thinking is addictive and can make it difficult to focus on the work that needs to be done. Stay informed, but also be conscious of patterns of negative thinking which can lead to distraction and decreased productivity.”

“The best advice I can give is to not expect it to be anything like the experience you hoped for/planned for.  That's not meant to be scary or sad, it's just going to be different.  Don't expect your productivity to be the same as it would be in the office. Give yourself a break. It will be OK.”

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