Lawyers are great at asking questions, but how are they at answering them? Bloomberg Law is talking with lawyers and other legal industry players to find out what their lives look like in the age of work from home.
Wesley O. Fields is the managing partner for Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s Kansas City, Mo. office. He focuses on public finance, corporate transactions, and other general business matters and has represented equity funds in deals across the U.S.
His longtime clients have included the Tax Increment Financing Commission of Kansas City, for which he’s lead counsel. Through the organization, he’s worked on the structuring and documentation needed for more than 100 development and public infrastructure projects in the city worth more than $5 billion in total. He’s also very active in civic organizations outside BCLP.
Bloomberg Law spoke to Fields about his clients’ evolving needs during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how he balances his role as a dad with his role as an attorney.
(Editor’s note: Remarks have been edited for clarity and length)
Bloomberg Law: Describe your day to day routine.
Wesley O. Fields: My daily routine begins at 6:30 AM with a two mile run and a twenty minute core work out in my home gym. I then review client and law firm emails that I received the night before and early in the morning and respond to those that are time sensitive. After I shower, I enjoy breakfast with my 13-year-old daughter, who explains to me why she is still tired after 10 hours of sleep. At around 8:30, I begin to respond to the remaining emails and return phone calls that I missed the day before. I arrange my day so as to address first the most time sensitive matters. Typically, there are 4 to 5 Zoom or conference calls interspersed through the day with clients, members of firm, and boards of directors of organizations for which I serve. I often will take time during the day to touch base with clients or prospective clients to access what needs they have that are not being met or just to see how they and their family are “holding up” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Typically, by 6:30, I try get in another work out before dinner at 7:30 or 8:00. I conclude the day with watching a movie with my family and then prepping for the next day.
BL: What is the hardest thing about working from home?
WF: The hardest thing has been the inability to have personal contact with partners and associates in my office, who I typically like to keep in close contact. I also miss the many lunches and dinners and other social activities with clients. I miss the intimacy that can only come from in-person interaction. During the school year, it was also a challenge balancing being a lawyer and advisor to my clients, a managing partner to my office, and a teacher and instructor to my seventh grade daughter. I would go from negotiating complicated real development agreements with layers of public tax incentives to correcting pre-algebra problems in just a matter of minutes.
BL: What is something your firm is doing that has been really helpful?
WF: My firm has created several opportunities for lawyers and staff to connect with one another through virtual meetings and social gatherings, including happy hours. It allows us to take a glimpse inside the homes and lives of our colleagues to see our children, our pets, and our home projects. We have weekly themes that encourage members of my office to learn something new about each other, celebrate our successes, and empathize with our adversities that occur outside the office. The firm’s Learning and Development Team has been providing ongoing support, training, and motivation related to working remotely.
BL: How have your clients’ needs changed?
WF: We have seen the entire gamut of issues confronting our clients. Some of our clients, both lenders and borrowers, are now having to manage and resolve financial distress resulting from Covid-19 that could impact debt obligations as well as real estate leases. We have spent time managing transactions as our clients have sought greater comfort and assurance of uncertain markets resulting from Covid-19. We have advised clients through complicated return to work policies and difficult issues surrounding furloughs that have resulted from the pandemic.
BL: What kinds of technology are you using? Any challenges while working remotely?
WF: I am using dual monitors and a docking station from my office. I also use an office phone. Essentially, I am fully functional from home. The only challenge is printing large documents. BCLP has had sophisticated remote working capabilities for a long time so it was a very easy transition.
BL: What is your number one piece of advice about working from home?
WF: The best advice I can give is to establish a routine. Without a schedule, you can easily find yourself working nonstop. Schedule lunch and breaks throughout the day and make sure that when you finish for the day, leave your home office and put your smart phone down.
BL: What’s your favorite working from home story that made you laugh, shake your head, or just throw up your hands?
WF: I recall being on an extended conference call that involved several complicated and controversial issues. Of course my daughter had a deadline to submit a homework assignment the same day. She kept coming into my office to determine when my call would conclude. Eventually, she made poster signs with algebra problems to get my attention that were followed with the question: ”Is this right Dad…I kind of need to know.” All I could do was throw my hands up in the air.
BL: What do you do to de-stress or take your mind off work when you’re trapped inside (or limited in where you can go)?
WF: Exercise, exercise, and exercise…my best stress reliever.