Where did 2020 go? I’m sure most of us can agree that it was, impossibly so, both the fastest year and the slowest year in memory. Stuck at home for months on end, the days and weeks can drag monotonously without events, trips or gatherings to look forward to but somehow, at the same time –how can it be December already?! With so many adjustments, shifting priorities and new adventures in multitasking, the year flew by, evidenced at the VBA by a 2020 blog count of 4. Just 4. The VBA blawg consistently had 27 entries in 2019, 23 in 2018 and 26 in 2017 after starting out in 2016 with a record ½ year of 19, mostly about everything and anything and then morphing more into a place to mainly share event photos and stories.
Our last event blog entry was about the We the People competition in March. Looking back, the pictures look strange and other worldly—where are the masks? Seeing people shoulder to shoulder now almost evokes a physical reaction of shock and confusion. I could blame the lack of blogging entirely on the fact that we have had no in-person events, but we all know that’s not the whole story. My law blog idol, Mike Kennedy, who has consistently blogged weekly if not more for years, too, took a semi-hiatus this year as the world shifted before our eyes. The pandemic affects everyone in minor and major ways. We can only be thankful that the effect on the VBA team has been relatively minor, keeping us busy (and employed) and motivating us to find more ways to engage and benefit our members.
There will be more information forthcoming from the VBA with respect to the COVID-19 Committee’s COVID impact survey, but early results show that about half of our members are taking care of children or adults while working full time. Nearly half of us feel unmotivated and more than half of us feel worried or afraid. It’s hard. And, with this even larger second (or third) wave of the pandemic upon us, most feel unsettled knowing that the end is not close enough. We all long to have events and to see each other again. Never have I craved mediocre hotel food more!
Not via blog but via our website, emails, news and Vermont Bar Journal, we have been updating our members on the goings on here at the VBA, albeit without the shiny happy people pictures. A quick glance at our COVID-19 Resource Page will confirm that we at the VBA have been busy as ever, even more so, keeping our members informed about the pandemic response, maintaining our seat at the table with respect to emergency legislation and court procedures and providing quality education, among other things. Many members have indicated that they enjoy being able to attend CLE’s without travel (or hotel food?). We will continue to listen to you and will always strive to improve the services we provide to our members.
Without a doubt, what the VBA is most thankful for is our members, our amazing community of legal professionals. We are thankful for your patience as we shifted how we offered our services over the last year. We are thankful that so many of you have served on our committees and weekly (and monthly) calls to brainstorm the best ways to get through this pandemic together. We are thankful that our members continue to share their wisdom with each other through our communities or by way of presentation on webinar panels. We are thankful that our members have chosen VBA programming for their CLE’s and have gathered with us, online, for our virtual Mid-Year Meeting (postponed to June) our October Annual Meeting and all the virtual programs we’ve had in-between. And we are of course most thankful that our members chose to renew during this uncertain time. We will endeavor to continually improve our programs as we head into our winter programming such as the family law series, YLD thaw, Tech Week and Real Estate Law days.
This week was our first day of our 3-day bankruptcy law annual CLE, understandably attended mostly by bankruptcy practitioners. But non-bankruptcy practitioners missed out on a sobering but also inspirational speech by US Bankruptcy Judge Colleen A. Brown. Much of her speech focused on the pandemic and some discouraging statistics but she also gave high praise for the bar’s imagination in pivoting for their clients and for their offices. Here’s an excerpt:
By applying your imagination, you are able to invoke and employ nuanced, non-binary analysis, and to envision a subtle reconfiguration of competing interests that produces a viable compromise. It manifests as the skill to recognize that the goal in disputes is not to obtain the biggest win for one, but to reach the outcome that will allow the individuals on both sides to walk away with their dignity intact and put the controversy behind them. This cannot happen without the capacity to fully take in the values and priorities of all sides.
That is precisely that sort of creative intelligence we need – as individuals and communities – to survive in, and recover from, this pandemic. We must be able to hold what may, at first, appear to be conflicting views. We must be able to glide back and forth between the large view and the small one, the universal and the personal.
There is a delicate balance to strike. Just as you do when negotiating a complex legal dispute, I encourage you to call on your problem-solving skills, and your imagination, to hold both
– an appreciation of both the struggles and unanticipated gifts the pandemic has brought to you and your loved ones, AND
– an awareness of others who need you to tap into your empathy and take action that will help to improve their life circumstances.
I am confident each of us can hold these contrasting notions simultaneously, and that by doing so we will become more whole, and nourish ourselves and our communities.
The whole speech is linked HERE and we commend you to it.
So here’s to more blogging in 2021, more pictures, more gatherings, more fun. We so look forward to seeing you all again, and not just from the computer screen, zoom mullet style (business on top…). We are thankful that we continue to share with one another, help one another and commiserate and connect with each other, even if merely over the interwebs. Thank you. We could not have made it through 2020 without you.