It’s been just over four years since the world shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some ways, it feels like another lifetime, and I believe that’s a trauma response. But a LOT has changed since 2020. I do firmly believe, however, that the pandemic and the months that we spent at home were not a blip, but a sea-change.

One of my LinkedIn friends, Helen Burness, of Saltmarsh Marketing, said last week:

Facebook declared unsafe for next period.

Memories like this keep flashing up daily.

They are reminders of a time I will never forget.

By way of trauma processing, we remembered the run up to lockdown last night over dinner and key “highlights” of the time. If you can call them that.

😷The brief novelty of Zoom backgrounds as we all pivoted online (demonstrated here)
😷Empty supermarket shelves
😷Dystopian images of central London with no people and traffic
😷Delusions that working parents were in any way online educating their young children whilst trying to sustain full-time working from home.
😷The terror of seeing numbers rise, ominous radio and TV ads telling us to “Stay home, save lives”
😷Massive profiteering of face masks and hand gel. I recall paying £20 for a pack of five disposable face masks and felt like I was winning. Face masks were CURRENCY.

On the more positive side:

🫶Sunday night 80s watchalongs on Twitter with people like Simon P MARSHALL Sameena Safdar and crew.
👏It was a great time for memes. I have kept a lot of them.
👏Finally companies realised the possibilities of remote working.
👐We drove all the way from SW16 to Buckingham Palace one day when we defied shielding as were losing our minds at home. It took twenty minutes only. This will never ever happen again.

It is all to easy to treat the pandemic years as a throw away book in the great novel of life. But it’s so important we remember a virus that had such a huge social and economic cost, the aftermath of which continues to play out.

I did enjoy this whimsical Zoom background at the time though. I think it may have been hysteria setting in.

Helen shared a particularly hilarious Zoom background with her and a delightful chipmunk. I remember having one of our members who was on the Starship Enterprise for a call, and who could forget the lawyer who had to reassure the judge that he was, in fact, “not a cat.”

We all, at times, were a bit hysterical.

But as I said, I certainly don’t think of the pandemic, and the last four years, as a blip in our history that we can move past. For me, it was a whole shift in my life that I’m still processing and likely always will be.

It brought me closer to some people and pushed others out of my life completely.

It fundamentally changed the way that we approach our business in the ILN – I believe for the better! I hope it’s made us more empathetic and engaged with the real lives of the people that we work with and for. We had already decided before the pandemic to create an Executive Committee, but that change happened as the world was shutting down, so my tenure as Executive Director being three months old, bringing on a new chair, and forming a new Executive Committee following the shutdown was a big undertaking. Our Board of Directors moved nimbly and was incredibly responsive – I couldn’t have been prouder of them. They showed up to every video call I asked them to, responded to emails, and got the business of our Network done quickly and efficiently so that we could make the decisions that we needed to.

We were supposed to have a conference two weeks after the shutdown was called, and we canceled the conference on the same day the shutdown happened, and our members responded with kindness, empathy, and an abundance of patience. I knew several other organizations in similar situations who weren’t as fortunate and I must say that we were exceptionally lucky.

All of the communications, both email and video, that we undertook were a masterclass in empathy, connection, engagement, and acceptance. Not everything was successful, but we were accepting of failures and willing to try the next thing. The group really took a lot of things in their stride, and I am endlessly grateful for the leeway that they offered during that period of trial and error.

We were all grateful for the little things – I have always worked to be that way, but it has brought that into sharp relief for me. In part, that was because I went through lockdown with a dying dog and I wouldn’t have been gifted with that time with him otherwise – as a newly appointed Executive Director, I would have been committed to even more traveling were it not for the pandemic.

It’s also made me want to create real change in what I do in all areas of my life – in the US, we had front-row seats to the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, who were only the latest in a long and of course, continuing line, of Black people murdered too soon because of white supremacy. I have been able to see and understand how I can make change not only with my vote and my voice but in my community and in the places I have power. That’s true for all of the things that make us human, like women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, becoming a more sustainable organization, and more.

The one thing that never stopped during the pandemic was work. We learned that we could work from home and we found that we were more productive than ever and companies were more profitable than ever – despite this, mental health was at an all-time low, which reflects how broken our systems are. We found out that the true heroes were nurses and doctors and sanitation workers and EMTs and gig economy workers and teachers…and yet as soon as there was a semblance of normalcy, they were quickly thrown away.

But while some things haven’t changed, many important things have. I believe many, if not all, of us will be processing the pandemic years for a long time to come and may not realize the impact that they had on our mental health for some time. I like to look at the silver linings of hard things – not because I’m a Pollyanna or because I believe that everything happens for a reason (I really don’t), but because I believe that if bad things are going to happen, we may as well learn something from them anyway. So from the pandemic, I’m grateful for the time I had with my sweet Barney, the closer connections I gained with my member lawyers and the ability to strengthen our leadership muscles, the push we needed into virtual video connecting, and the ability to fully embrace and endorse the necessary work of DEI and sustainability for the future.

What lessons have you taken away from the pandemic years?

PS – I’d like to give a shoutout to every law firm’s COVID “Hub” and my related post “I don’t want no hubs” which still makes me giggle.

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the goals of a global professional services network. She manages all major aspects of the Network, including recruitment, member retention, and providing exceptional client service to an international membership base.

In her role as Executive Director, Griffiths manages a mix of international programs, engages a diverse global community, and develops an international membership base. She leads the development and successful implementation of major organizational initiatives, manages interpersonal relationships, and possesses executive presence with audiences of internal and external stakeholders. Griffiths excels at project management, organization, and planning, writes and speaks with influence and authority, and works independently while demonstrating flexibility in thinking, especially in challenging situations. She also adapts to diverse and dynamic environments with constant assessment and recalibration.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

In 2021, the ILN was honored as Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer European Awards, and in 2016, 2017, and 2022, they were shortlisted as Global Law Firm Network of the Year. Since 2011, the Network has been listed as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network, recently increasing this ranking to be included in the top two percent of law firm networks globally, as well as adding two regional rankings. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry and was included in Clio’s list of “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful, and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was chosen as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February 2009.