The Retrain of my Brain - A Sole Practitioner’s Reflections on Practising Family Law at Home During a Global Pandemic

  • May 12, 2020
  • Ceilidh Henderson, family lawyer

The quick adaptations were easy. I learned how to set up Zoom video conferencing, subscribed to Docusign, and bought ink cartridges for my printer. I made a long list of practice management tasks that I always want to get done but for which I never find the time. The list was actually called, “My to Accomplish During COVID-19 List”.

It looked like this:

  • Sort through Continuing Professional Development materials and decide what to keep
  • Close files and organize them alphabetically in my filing cabinet in the basement at home
  • Sort through physical files and shred unnecessary and duplicate documents
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

The first few days I stuck to my self-prescribed routine, but as the week neared completion my motivation waned. I wasn’t completing my tasks and I was growing increasingly frustrated with myself. ‘Notices to the Profession’ began to circulate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s daily briefings started to sink in and sometime in the last week of March I realized I needed to shift into another gear and “retrain my brain”.

Lawyers commonly are goal-oriented and thrive on the hustle and bustle. I have often said, “I am most productive when I am in that sweet spot of just a little too busy.” The legal profession is built on a docketing system. Our brains have been conditioned to look at a weeks’ worth of dockets and feel a sense of accomplishment and of course, our pay is reflective of the value of our dockets. This is classical conditioning; lawyers subconsciously subscribe to it because we spend our workdays recording our time and are monetarily rewarded accordingly. My foray into armchair psychology ends there because I have been sitting at my kitchen table (for longer than I care to admit), trying to reconcile Pavlovian theory and the ‘neutral stimulus’ of the bell with docketing and the legal profession and the sense of achievement and reward.