Making Partner in a Pandemic: Akerman’s Donnie King

April 12, 2021, 9:31 AM

Lawyers are forced to adapt constantly—to evolving case law, to new facts disrupting our litigation strategy, to shifting client priorities. So, while the pandemic certainly brought about change, I would not quite classify the resulting professional challenges as “extraordinary.”

In some ways, for me, work was one of the most routine parts of 2020. After I set myself up with a new printer, dual computer monitors, and a docking station for my laptop, work was manageable. From the time the pandemic began, I did what was necessary to ensure that my clients’ interests were protected, and I was able to work on their matters efficiently and effectively. Learning how to get work done with the distractions associated with working from home was different—but not difficult. Did I get stir crazy or the occasional cabin fever? Of course. But I adapted.

For many of us, however, 2020 had many personal challenges. I lost several loved ones, including my grandmother, to Covid-19. I also had to deal with the emotional swings caused by the continued senseless harassment, abuse, and murder of unarmed Black Americans. These were the real challenges of 2020—not work and not stay-at-home orders.

At the same time, the pandemic provided me with some unexpected blessings. I am part of a national litigation practice that requires me to travel across the country regularly to see clients and attend hearings. To me, the job of a good lawyer and counselor is to make our clients’ lives easier—identifying potential landmines and accelerating the accomplishment of their goals. I have always taken this objective seriously and was under the mistaken belief that I could not accomplish this at home. So, even when I was not traveling, I often stayed in the office late into the evening to draft motions and briefs and went into the office early in the morning to perfect them.

Thankfully, my wife has been supportive of my often-unreasonable work habits and understands my behavior is an attempt to build a better life for our family. But, the pandemic reminded me that nothing replaces presence and allowed me to reintroduce myself to the woman I met seven years ago.

While I know I will eventually be back in the office and traveling, I learned that I don’t have to do everything from the office or by jumping on a plane. In some ways, I have more time to devote to work because I don’t have to commute or walk through TSA each day.

I am also connecting with my clients on a deeper, more personal level. I am experiencing video conferences with pets, newborns, teenagers, spouses, and even in-laws. Clients also see me in my home and learn a little bit more about me. I now have a different perspective about the challenges each client is facing and first-hand knowledge of how the challenges are affecting their employees.

Are there parts of work that I miss? Sure. I miss having trials and going to court. I miss the camaraderie of my work team—taking coffee and tea breaks or sitting in a room with a large white board to strategize our cases. I miss the celebration I know I would have had if I made partner outside of the pandemic. But I am also appreciative of the time I’ve been able to spend with my family and the more intimate connections I have made with my clients.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

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Donnie King is a national litigator at Akerman LLP in Miami with experience handling complex and general commercial litigation, products liability, and personal injury matters through trial.

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