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January/February 2021

Taking the Lead

Making the Most of COVID "Downtime"

Linda Klein and John Hinton IV

COVID has caused us all to experience substantial upheaval—restrictions on activities, business closures, school closures, reduced incomes, illness, caring for both younger and older family members, personal anxiety and fear. Most of all, the upheaval has impacted our available time.

That impact is not the same for everyone. Many people are struggling to find the time to meet new demands, such as two-working-parent homes with young children and those with elderly household members. On the other hand, many people have significant COVID “downtime,” whether because of a reduced workload, the cessation of leisure activities that previously filled a regular block of free time, or other factors. For those with some COVID downtime—whether you see it as a blessing or a curse—that time is an opportunity that you can spend wisely.

Jeff Neppl at the Koblentz Group recently shared a message describing how he was spending some of his COVID downtime to assist others. Neppl performs executive search and advisory services. He has remained busy during the COVID economic slowdown, but not as busy as during normal times. Not one to waste his time or his experience, Neppl has spent part of his COVID downtime using his skills to assist several recent college graduates whose job prospects have been adversely impacted by the economic downturn. He has held mock interviews and given feedback; made introductions within his network to assist them with obtaining interviews; and provided them encouragement that they will find a position.

By spending a small amount of the extra time that the downturn has created, Neppl has given these young men and women something that would otherwise take a lot of money to buy—the wisdom, expertise and networking from someone with decades of experience in C-suite hiring decisions. According to Neppl, what he has received in return is something that money could never buy—the personal satisfaction of helping people get their careers on the right path. Indeed, he describes that satisfaction as greater than that found in his paid search work. Neppl closed his message by encouraging others to do the same.

Neppl’s article brings to mind several opportunities for lawyers with COVID downtime to use some of that time in service to others. That could mean mirroring Neppl’s example. There are plenty of recent law school graduates who have either lost job offers or never received one in the first place because of COVID. Likewise, current law students are finding the job market much more challenging as they interview for lawyer positions or summer clerkships. Helping them sharpen their interview skills and broadening their network can make a substantial impact. A seasoned lawyer can help brainstorm and find creative opportunities, even if it means compromise in a difficult market.

Lawyers may find personal satisfaction investing additional time mentoring young lawyers in their own firm. Those young lawyers will be grateful for your time—whether it be counsel and advice, assistance with sharpening their skills or providing more in-depth feedback on their work. Who are the bright young lawyers in your firm who might otherwise be overlooked for mentoring opportunities? Your investment will benefit both of you. Indeed, your efforts may result in finding a new go-to member of your team, which benefits the entire firm.

Your local legal aid or similar legal service provider probably has seen a significant increase in individuals seeking legal assistance. Perhaps this is a good season to give some of your time to pursue these pro bono opportunities serving your community and sharpening your own saw at the same time.

A final thought—you may have clients who know people looking to advance their legal career during this difficult time or who need, but cannot afford, legal services. A few phone calls to clients is a good idea. You have an opportunity to speak with a client, and you may find you can provide a service that will pay dividends for your relationship when the economy rebounds.

We encourage you to give these ideas some thought or think of different ideas to use some of your COVID downtime to help others, to derive some personal satisfaction and perhaps to indirectly advance your own practice.

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Linda Klein

Senior Managing Shareholder

Linda Klein is a past president of the ABA and senior managing shareholder at Baker Donelson. She is a frequent speaker on law practice, construction and higher education law. [email protected]

John Hinton IV


John Hinton IV is a shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Atlanta office. His practice focuses on commercial litigation and construction law. [email protected]