How Did 2020 Go Sideways?

Jun 25, 2020 | Blog

Everyone I knew had high hopes for 2020. I know I did. I got my vision board ready and even shared it with all of you. Just the trips I had already planned ensured this year was going to be epic. And it has been, but for very different reasons! COVID-19 changed our lives overnight and most of us weren’t ready.

Being from Florida, this is not how it usually happens at least in my household. When June 1 rolls around, you know you have to be ready for hurricane season and by that date, we’re usually pretty close.

While change isn’t ever easy, some of them have been needed and some of them can go away just as quickly as they arrived. Here are the highlights and lowlights, at least from my perspective:

The Good

I figure I should start with the good first. Legal Aid pivoted a lot more quickly than I ever anticipated. A lot of organizations were already using a case management system that kept their information in the cloud which meant they could work from anywhere. When I was working at The Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar, as far back as 2009, if I covered court for a colleague or had my own hearings, I could input court notes during the hearing and send updates if needed to my colleagues or others immediately. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but through my travels across the country, a lot of programs were still struggling with these kinds of concepts even if the technology was available to them. Since most of my work was already virtual, there wasn’t much to do on my end when everyone else went virtual except for preparing to be on camera more. Prior to COVID-19, most of our clients just wanted to handle meetings by phone, but once we all moved virtually, folks wanted to see each other’s faces. That totally made sense and I finally got to see the faces of lots of folks I’ve been working with for a while.

I wasn’t expecting to pick up more work during this time, but I did. I also had to set different expectations for myself and my clients as I grappled with the realities of distance learning. It was still a welcome surprise. I fully expected my clients to cut back on the work we were doing together.

The Bad

It sounds really silly, but I was scheduled to attend my first yoga retreat to Costa Rica, a country I’ve never visited before. It’s been rescheduled to January of 2021 which is great, but I was really excited for this trip. Will the trip really happen in January 2021? I have no clue. I also had 3 other trips canceled as well. I love to travel and was reminded this year just how much I miss it.

Also, last summer, due to my husband’s trial schedule, we weren’t able to take a family vacation and ended up having a beach getaway for a long weekend less than an hour from home. Don’t get me wrong it was family time we needed, but we learned a good lesson. Book those vacations and take them when you can – tomorrow isn’t promised!

Distance learning was tough and not just because I was juggling work with my kid all day long. I was her assistant essentially – her IT tech, printing service, made sure she didn’t miss zoom classes, completed assignments, and also helped her submit those assignments. Every single school day. All of this, while my oldest child attended “zoom university” as she called it and my husband handled court hearings, depos and mediations in his home office nearby. I didn’t even think our internet connection had the bandwidth to handle all four of us zooming at once and it wasn’t perfect, but I guess my husband’s gaming habit helped us have the bandwidth we’d need for this type of exercise.

Lessons Learned

Legal Aid is lot more adaptive than they even imagined. Bravo and well done. I am in awe of how quickly you pivoted and have continued to serve your clients.

Do not hold off on creating special memories. It’s been months since my kids have hugged their grandparents. That’s a big one for us as our parents are getting older. Oh and take those vacations.

Funders always need to have a healthy disaster reserve because it can hit at any time and the need for legal aid, as soon as the eviction moratoriums are lifted if there’s one in your area, is going to skyrocket. Some funders made a quick pivot and are providing funding specifically to address legal issues related to COVID 19, but it will never be enough. Sadly, Legal Aid organizations never ever have the amount of funding they need to serve all of the eligible folks in their area.

Just know that I’m here to help if you need anything and in the meantime, please stay safe and well.

Virtual Hugs to all of you! – Ericka

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