Nothing like a pandemic to shine new light on an old phrase “Touch-Free” that is common lingo in the car wash world - but not so much at courthouses.
It turns out car washes were ahead of the curve and suddenly their friction-less model is the new blueprint for our daily lives.
You could say Touch-Free has gone viral - but you wouldn’t.
The Really Friendly Old Courthouse Crowd
A day inside America’s courthouses isn’t exactly an NBA game, but it’s close.
Hand-shakes, pats on the back, in-trial huddles, and crowded courtrooms are the norm for clients, court staff, and lawyers churning through the legal system.
Besides hospitals, no public building is more packed with an amalgam of humanity than the county courthouse.
Stripped of its bluster and lofty justice-speak, lawyering is a service industry not unlike thousands of other service industries shuttered by the modern-day plague and courthouses won’t open at least until May and many lawyers are hurting.
Yet when economic survival trumps scientific truth and the halls of justice reopen, lawyers will enter a world more foreign than familiar.
The Unfamiliar Courthouse After COVID-19
First, every attorney will have to confront their own health fears and decide whether an in-person court appearance is worth the risk.
Unlike healthcare workers who do their best to don personal protective equipment, gloves and masks are not usual lawyer and court staff courthouse attire.
And just like high school, there’s going to be peer pressure.
Like society at large, there will be a faction of lawyers who are bound by political dogma or a false appraisal of themselves as invincible that will scoff and deride distancers as weak.
The courthouse will become the neighborhood swimming pool where all those entering are advised to “swim at your own risk.”
I say keep working on your videoconferencing skills!
Change – Perhaps Unwelcome But Probably Necessary
In court, lawyers will have to abandon many simple physical interactions long relied on as tools of the trade.
Touch conveys what words cannot, augmenting and amplifying our words.
At the courthouse, a simple handshake is an affirmation of trust between lawyer and client or a gesture of camaraderie among lawyers too often isolated by the demands of the profession.
In the courtroom, a whisper at close range conveys both instruction and information while a pat on the back is a lawyer's reassurance to a rattled client.
Master the Difficulties – And See Opportunities Won
Winston Churchill, an actual wartime leader said, “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.”
These words should ring true for everyone participating in the justice system.
Through some combination of behavior modification and increased videoconferencing, courts will resume business, taking a triage approach to the backlog of cases.
Lawyers can do their part by negotiating agreements when possible and streamlining their court presentations, all with a little less personal touch.
As Mr. Churchill once intoned, “Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.”
Schreier & Housewirth, Family Law
1329 College Avenue, Suite 100
Fort Worth TX 76104
Gregory L. Housewirth is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Fort Worth, Texas. With 30 years' family law experience, Mr. Housewirth has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and grandparent cases. In addition, Mr. Housewirth is a qualified family law mediator and a member of Collaborative Law Texas, a practice group dedicating to promoting collaborative divorce in Texas.