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.
Frank Earley is a litigator at Mintz Levin in New York, and focuses on securities and complex commercial disputes. He’s co-founder of the firm’s distressed debt and claims trading practice, and represents a wide array of clients in class actions, SEC investigations, and enforcement proceedings, FINRA proceedings, and other arbitration matters.
Bloomberg Law spoke to Earley about escaping to his car to argue cases, addressing clients’ changing needs, and relaxing in his backyard.
(Editor’s note: Remarks have been edited for clarity and length)
Bloomberg Law: Describe your day to day routine.
Frank Earley: I wake up around 7 a.m., check my emails and read the news—The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The New York Post. On most days, I try to use the time that would be my commute and instead go for a long walk. It is a great way to clear my head and get ready for the day. My wife and I have three kids (a 17 year-old and 13 year-old twins) who are wrapping up the school year and virtual learning. We are lucky in that our kids are very self-sufficient and have managed well during the lockdown, but they are loud, like their dad. I generally set up my workspace outside when I can, and have even used my garage as an office. By “leaving” the house it allows me to separate home and work. I spend most of my time during the work day on calls with clients, and editing briefs. I have had multiple arguments during the lockdown, so it has been busy. Around 6 p.m., we begin preparing dinner together as a family.
BL: What is the hardest thing about working from home?
FE: The hardest part is the lack of separation between home and work. We all work long hours, but in normal times, I try to “leave work at the door” and focus on my family when I get home. It used to be that I would do additional work after everyone went to sleep, but now it is so easy to say, “I am going to go send a quick email,” and get sucked into work for an hour or two.
BL: What is something your firm is doing that has been really helpful?
FE: Mintz uses Webex for video meetings and conferences, and attorneys across the firm have done a great job of utilizing this technology not only for hosting client and internal business meetings, but also for virtual social gatherings, such as cocktail hours. It is really important to connect with your colleagues. We aim to include attorneys of all levels on these calls.
BL: How have your clients’ needs changed?
FE: I have found that many of my clients are not as focused on litigation, given the external pressures on many of their businesses. My goal is always to represent my clients’ best interests, while understanding their businesses so that I can limit distractions and allow the client to focus on his or her business. The current environment only serves to reinforce the importance of this approach.
BL: What kinds of technology are you using? Any challenges while working remotely?
FE: I have used Webex for most of my client and internal interactions, but technology is generally dictated by the court. I have had arguments before the Second and Third Circuits by telephone, as well as virtual appearances through Zoom in the Delaware Chancery Court.
BL: What is your number one piece of advice about working from home?
FE: If possible, find a space where you can separate from your family and focus on your work. Second, I would say make sure you reach out to your network and prioritize relationships— people appreciate it when you generally show concern for their well-being— and it is just the right thing to do.
BL: What’s your favorite working from home story that made you laugh, shake your head, or just throw up your hands?
FE: Early on in the lockdown, I had a telephone argument before the Second Circuit. Shortly before the argument, my cell phone coverage started acting up. Additionally, there was both a virtual band practice and virtual chorus practice taking place in different rooms of my house. I had to find another location, so I sat in my car and did the argument from there. You have to picture it— I’m sitting in my car, in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, arguing in front of the Second Circuit. On another occasion, I was on a Zoom call with numerous parties and a special master. During the call, my 13-year-old daughter walks into the room and is complaining about her brother, but she is off-screen. I proceed to give her the “death stare” that all parents of teenagers have mastered, and she gets the message. However, I now realize that everyone on the Zoom call saw me make this face and I have to explain what I was scowling at to everyone.
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)?
FE: My escape is my backyard. I go outside, put on music, and just enjoy being out there. At night, nothing beats sitting outside by a fire with my family.