My first Instagram post of 2020 was a picture of the magnificent, meandering Great Wall of China, taken during my last holiday trip in 2019. I wrote a caption wishing a year full of health, love and happiness and a bo camiño (i.e. a good journey, this is the meet and greet between pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago in my home region, Galicia).
No one could have imagined then what 2020 would bring to every aspect of life. However, despite all the challenges we faced—and are still facing—I believe there is still much to be thankful for, in the life lessons that we have learned along the way.
Spain was severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak and the country was under one of the strictest lockdown regimes for several months. As a result of the first state of emergency in force since March 14, 2020, the government took numerous measures to fight the pandemic, including restricting movement (citizens were only allowed to travel to work—but not always—and to conduct essential activities) and prohibiting non-essential business or limitation of transport services.
The state of emergency also brought an unprecedented suspension of the courts’ judicial proceedings and deadlines, with few exceptions relating to urgent proceedings, for over two months, followed by the recommendation of virtual court hearings.
For an IP litigator like me, the first, yet limited, experiences with virtual hearings were novel in Spain. We learned that they are a useful tool not only during pandemic situations—to avoid further suspensions of judicial proceedings which would interfere with citizens’ fundamental right to effective judicial protection—but also to lighten the courts’ workload, reduce the timing of proceedings, and lessen overall litigation costs for parties in certain proceedings.
A Dramatic Shift
Overnight, there was a dramatic shift in the way lawyers at international law firms in Spain worked in the pre-pandemic world. We went from an office-based environment that often required regular national and international trips to attend court hearings and for business development and training activities, to a fully online scenario only interrupted by the chores of our daily life.
My personal experience working from home was actually very good. I am an optimistic person and tried to make the most of it during quarantine and thereafter. The absence of day-to-day contact at the office, of course, posed some challenges in the relationship with the team and our clients, which incentivized us to be more creative and adjust on the spot.
Setting up regular meetings with the team by video conference, as well as informal video calls to check-in, worked well to keep everyone engaged—which seemed more critical for the most junior lawyers of the team, for whom physical presence could help their development. Meetings and town halls with the firm’s management also helped to keep everyone updated and maintain a positive vibe.
Similarly, on the client front, replacing the former calls with contacts by video calls, and looking for business development activities through webinars and online presentations instead of face-to-face meetings, also did their job to keep the flame alive with clients during the pandemic confinement.
Separating working and not-working time at home also required some efforts. In my case, establishing schedules with specific breaks and slotting time for exercising worked very well. Early-morning or evening long walks around Madrid city center, when we could, also helped me to break the routine and separate one day from another during the hardest times of the confinement.
What impressed me most during the pandemic was how quickly one can adapt to drastic changes in life. I am certain that this resilience will help us not only to navigate through the pandemic and ongoing challenges but prove to be a useful skill allowing lawyers to adapt to the continuous changing environment of the legal profession.
All in all, for those lawyers hitting the road toward partnership, one may think that, due to the pandemic, the last few miles of the race in 2020 had more curves than what was indicated in the travel plan. Still, I believe that the way to partner is more of a marathon, and both the journey and the destination are worth the efforts.
Looking back, if I was asked to provide some tips to my younger self— and others—I would advise them to work hard, always be kind to others, build relationships, set goals without limitations, stay positive, and be honest, humble, and open-minded to never stop learning. And, of course, have fun and enjoy every step of the journey! Bo camiño!
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.
Inmaculada Lorenzo is a partner in the Intellectual Property, Media and Technology practice group in the Madrid office of Hogan Lovells. She focuses on enforcement and litigation of IP rights, particularly on patents, trademarks, unfair competition and trade secrets. She regularly acts for leading companies in the life sciences and technology, media, and telecommunications industries.