The unprecedented COVID pandemic has created an environment where attorneys around the United States and the world have been forced to work remotely to provide legal assistance to clients. Some have never done this before, while others have been working remotely for years. At Priori, we wanted to shed some light on the experiences of attorneys in our network during this tumultuous time and how they’ve handled the transition.
For the first of this multi-part set of lawyer interviews, we spoke with Priori network attorney, Mindy Morton. Mindy is a Silicon Valley based internet and intellectual property litigator. She is a partner at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP and a graduate of Yale Law School.
What was your professional background and experience before your current role?
I started working in New York doing First Amendment and commercial litigation in 1997 at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, and I moved to California in 2000 just in time for the dot.com bubble to burst. My first experience in intellectual property litigation was defending a leading file sharing company in its copyright dispute with the recording industry. From there, I learned patent, trademark and trade secret litigation. I moved to Bergeson LLP, a boutique litigation firm in 2004, where I learned how to be a trial attorney. I was the first chair in a $10 million jury trial in state court, and later successfully defended the verdict on appeal. I started working with my first internet client at Bergeson, and I still work with that client today.
Please tell us a bit about your current position and firm
I’m an internet and intellectual property litigator and trial attorney, and I’m proud to be a partner at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, based in our Palo Alto office. Procopio is a California based Amlaw 200 law firm. We are a full service business and litigation law firm, with a deep bench of IP litigation, IP prosecution, privacy, real estate, tax and construction attorneys.
My practice focuses on two key areas:
(1) I protect online free speech and litigate cutting-edge cases at the intersection of technology and free speech issues; and
(2) I help my clients resolve critical disputes involving trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, patents, data privacy laws, complex contracts and noncompetes.
Had you ever worked remotely before COVID? If so, please give details
Prior to the shelter-in-place rules in California, I worked from home occasionally, but usually when I was sick or needed to be home to help with my daughter or an issue with our house. And of course, because I’m a litigator, I usually spend at least part of any vacation working remotely, even if it is only checking emails. The only time I’ve worked remotely for an extended period of time was during my maternity leave, and again, that was mainly checking emails and keeping in touch with clients while my amazing team did the heavy lifting.
In some ways, I’ve worked remotely since I started with Procopio, since our Palo Alto office is much smaller than our San Diego and Del Mar offices. Most of my team is in Southern California, so I’m used to team meetings by videoconference and checking in by phone. I miss seeing my Palo Alto colleagues every day and walking down the hall to check in, but the remote team experience isn’t new.
How have you managed working during COVID? What challenges if any have you faced?
The shift to remote work was abrupt and required a lot of changes—my home office wasn’t really set up to work efficiently for extended periods of time, so I needed to set up my desk and add a second monitor and a more comfortable chair. I also needed to figure out how to balance working with spending time with my three-year-old daughter, who has decided that videoconferences are better when she pops in to say hi. Of course, on top of the change to remote work, we are all working in a crisis, and that adds an extra layer to all of this. I’ve found it much more difficult to focus than I did before, and from speaking to friends and colleagues, this issue is not unique to me.
What technologies and tools do you use to enable remote work? Are any of these new or were you using them before the crisis?
I spend a good part of my day on videoconferences. When I was working in the office, a good part of my day was on phone calls, so the only change is that I now see people on my screen. I enjoy having fun new backgrounds for Zoom calls, and that helps make meetings a bit more personal. I did buy a webcam, because the camera on my laptop is oddly placed at the bottom of the screen, which was not helpful for video conferencing. My firm already used a VPN and virtual desktops for everyone, so the rest of my technology is unchanged.
Does working remotely impact your ability to communicate with clients?
I’ve actually been able to connect more with my clients—before COVID-19, we would most often communicate by phone. Now, we are regularly communicating by videoconference, which allows us to interact and have more of a personal connection. I’ve also been doing remote networking and having some happy hours on Zoom with clients and colleagues, and that has been a nice way to catch up when most of us are cooped up in our houses. I’ve been able to foster connections in ways that weren’t possible when everyone had so many after work events and activities.
What aspects of remote work do you like the least and the most?
I love not having a commute and actually having time to cook. I also love spending more time with my daughter and my husband. My cat is my constant companion, and when I go back to work in my office, I think he will actually have the biggest adjustment. I also value the connections I’ve made with friends and colleagues, and I hope that we can find ways to continue to check in once we go back to our busy schedules. I love it (most of the time) when my daughter pops into my videoconferences.
I miss having real, face-to-face interactions with people outside of my family, and I look forward to walking down the hall to chat when we are able to do so. And, like many parents, spending more time with my daughter means more interruptions and more work shifted to after her bedtime. I also find that videoconferencing for extended periods is much more tiring than talking on the phone, so I look forward to reducing some of the videoconferencing and getting some energy back.
If you would like to speak to Mindy or any other intellectual property lawyers in the Priori network, please put in an RFP here