Each year on May 1, Law Day celebrates the role of law and the legal profession in our society. The Law Day 2020 theme commemorates the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to U.S. citizens on the basis of sex.
Though Law Day 2020 plans have been adapted to adhere to social distancing guidelines, the leadership roles women have played throughout our country’s history continue to inspire.
This Law Day, we are spotlighting Corinne C. Heggie, President of the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois and a Partner at Wochner Law Firm LLC in Northbrook. At the WBAI, Corinne uses her voice to promote the interests and welfare of women lawyers. She’s currently leading the WBAI through the coronavirus pandemic while helping to guide Wochner in a new virtual environment to ensure the continued delivery of legal services to its clients.
How has Wochner adapted to the changing work environment?
Wochner Law Firm has adapted to the changing work environment through innovating the ways in which our attorneys and staff complete work and connect with clients, business partners, and potential clients. We have been able to leverage technology to continue to help with estate planning, trust administration, and probate cases. Governor Pritzker’s March 26, 2020, executive order has been instrumental, allowing us to implement our technology to perform compliant signings during the pandemic. There have been challenges, one of which is staying connected as a firm when we are not physically at the office. We all had positive experiences with applications that specialize in this service; however, group texts and making a concerted effort to prioritize calls, voice or FaceTime, from each other during business hours has been a natural and meaningful fit. We are able to problem-solve and share ideas with one another. It also has allowed us to transparently manage client expectations especially if we need to do more research or have further discussion or collaboration before advising a client.
How is the WBAI supporting its members during the pandemic? WBAI is making learning opportunities easily available to our members during the pandemic. A great example was providing WBAI board members and committee chairs the opportunity to participate in a national survey in March 2020 examining how the legal profession handled the shift to remote work in response to the pandemic. A newly launched consulting firm, The Red Bee Group LLC, fashioned the survey and gathered results from approximately 300 lawyers and legal professionals nationwide and recruited in part through bar association leaders. WBAI was proud to support the survey.
How do you maintain civility in your practice during stressful situations? During stressful situations, civility can sometimes be hard to summon. For this reason, I try to communicate more purposefully and in a “two-way” fashion to divorce emotion as best I can from the impasse, conflict, or disagreement.
What unique challenges do women attorneys face in navigating COVID-19? Women face unique challenges during the pandemic if they are a primary caregiver for a family member or children, especially school-aged children who are engaged in e-learning. The time devoted to supporting family and children is significant during traditional work hours. If women do not have a partner or support to help share these duties, women are essentially working 24/7. It is important to carve out time for yourself and know that even 20 minutes can rejuvenate you and enable you to be a better teacher, caregiver, and attorney.
How will COVID-19 impact the legal profession in the future?
COVID-19’s long-term impact on the legal profession will be prolific; however, I believe remote administrative support and enhanced technology instruction for attorneys and staff will be re-examined and augmented.
How are you maintaining your work-life balance during the pandemic?
I am maintaining work-life balance by trying to set realistic expectations for myself and those with whom I am working and to be attentive to self-care during the pandemic. I have certainly leveraged technology in this lane, streaming barre, strength, and cardio classes, which have been critical especially since there was April snow in Chicagoland!