Hon. Helaine L. Berger, (Ret.), Hon. Lisa R. Curcio, (Ret.), Hon. Kay M. Hanlon, (Ret.) and Hon. Brigid M. McGrath, (Ret.), senior mediators and arbitrators at ADR Systems, hosted the Women’s Initiative Committee’s Virtual Happy Hour & Networking Discussion on Aug. 13th. The event provided attendees an opportunity to network with peers and exchange ideas about how to better serve clients in remote ways as the day-to-day effects of the COVID-19 pandemic persist.
“Legal practice is in the midst of a significant, lasting shift toward remote work and remote dispute resolution,” said Judge McGrath, who recently co-authored an article on the subject in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. “Women lawyers, who must already scale unique challenges within the profession, are supporting one another during this period and are becoming more shrewd, resilient and entrepreneurial attorneys in the process.”
Attendees came together over Zoom to enjoy half-bottles of wine courtesy of ADR Systems and share insights on topics emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as: how to balance work, parental responsibilities and self-care; how to network with peers through digital formats; how to prepare for eventual, if only partial, returns to the office and how best to present one’s self on a videoconference.
Finding balance between work, parental responsibilities and self-care is more manageable and attainable during the COVID-19 pandemic, attendees and our neutrals said. While the home has certainly become an amalgamation of the office, day-care center and place of rest, attendees noted that this has allowed them to regain more control of their lives and has returned hours to them once invested in commutes to work. For this balance to be possible, though, establishing boundaries with your colleagues, your family and for yourself is vital to personal well-being.
Networking has taken on a new angle now that it is happening remotely, attendees said. The value of an interaction with someone has gone up: a lunch hour spent with a colleague over Zoom, a virtual bar association event and phone calls are all appreciated more because many people are parched of social interaction.
Attendees said that returning to the office is, largely, at their discretion for the time being. This flexibility was universally appreciated. Simultaneously, though, attendees acknowledged that camaraderie and the opportunity to collaborate can be difficult in a remote setting.
While the workplace has been re-imagined during the COVID-19 pandemic, attendees agreed that the expectation and look of professionalism has not changed. Business attire is still expected when on a videoconference, and “Zoomers” should be mindful of their surroundings when on camera to improve their presentation: What is behind you and around you? How is the room’s lighting? How is the camera angled? Is ambient noise nearby distracting others on the videoconference?
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose transformative challenges for now-remote attorneys, yet together, with the support and creativity of peers, it is certainly surmountable.
“Regardless of background or practice, women can learn from and assist each other to achieve their goals. ADR Systems wants to support that initiative and help foster these instrumental relationships among women,” said Meghann Smith, Esq., executive director of the Commercial and Family Law Division at ADR Systems.
To review more of what was discussed at the Women’s Initiative Committee’s Virtual Happy Hour & Networking Discussion, click here.
Hon. Helaine L. Berger, (Ret.) is an experienced civil litigator who tried cases in Criminal, Chancery, Law and Domestic Relations before serving as a judge in Cook County’s Domestic Relations Division for 19 years. Judge Berger has been active in the legal community, including Chair of the CBA’s Fee Committee and President of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. She is now a senior mediator and arbitrator at ADR Systems where she concentrates in family law. Judge Berger is flexible and creative in her approach to mediation and has helped ADR Systems launch an innovative fast track mediation program for family law cases.
Hon. Lisa R. Curcio, (Ret.) brings an abundance of real-world experience — real estate, business and banking — to her mediation and arbitration practice. Of over 15 years on the bench, she spent 11 in the Chancery Division where she presided over claims for mechanics liens and all aspects of claims under construction contracts. Before she went on the bench, Judge Curcio represented parties in medical malpractice, premises and product liability and other personal injury matters. Judge Curcio is regarded as an energetic and pragmatic neutral who helps parties construct suitable solutions to their disputes.
Hon. Kay M. Hanlon, (Ret.) has expertise in resolving personal injury actions such as medical malpractice, mass torts and product liability, as well as commercial actions such as legal malpractice, eminent domain and subrogation. Counsel who appeared before Judge Hanlon found her to be perpetually prepared and ready to listen attentively. Her open and friendly demeanor is known throughout the legal community. Her personality is tailor-made for her work as a mediator and arbitrator.
Hon. Brigid M. McGrath, (Ret.) has handled and complex commercial and personal injury case types throughout her 34-year legal and judicial career, including professional malpractice, medical malpractice, insurance coverage and product liability matters. As a senior mediator and arbitrator, she is skilled at diffusing conflict and identifying root causes of disputes. Counsel know Judge McGrath will prepare thoroughly for every case and work diligently toward resolution.
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