To better understand the experiences of attorneys during this unprecedented COVID pandemic and how they’ve handled the transition to working remotely, we have conducted a number of interviews with lawyers in the Priori network.
For the second of this multi-part set of lawyer interviews, we spoke with Aaron Swerdlow, a Los Angeles-based corporate and transactional attorney. He is a partner at Weinberg Gonser LLP and a graduate of Georgetown Law.
What was your professional background and experience before your current role?
I previously was with a regional BigLaw firm and served as the general counsel of a boutique sports agency (since acquired by CAA) where we advised professional basketball coaches and retired NBA athletes on employment, licensing, sponsorship, estate planning, and equity investment matters. Additionally I have extensive experience guiding emerging technology, corporate and entertainment clients in high stakes transactional, employment, and corporate law matters. I'm a founding member of the American Lawyer's Young Lawyer Editorial Board, Law360's Sports Editorial Advisory Board, and the LawInSport Advisory Board. I'm also the editor-in-chief of the sports law section in Matthew Bender’s quarterly treatise, “Entertainment Industry Contracts.”
Please tell us a bit about your current position and firm
I am a partner at a transactional law boutique based in West Los Angeles near UCLA. My practice is primarily that of outside general counsel to small and medium-sized companies, especially in the emerging technology, entertainment/sports, consumer products, and controlled substances vertical. We also offer intellectual property and litigation services. Our firm is very casual, business-minded, dog-friendly and consists of mostly former BigLaw firm lawyers.
Had you ever worked remotely before COVID? If so, please give details
Yes, some of my work as general counsel of the sports agency was remote.
How have you managed working during COVID? What challenges if any have you faced?
Thankfully, I am able to maintain high contact with most clients, especially through text messages and Slack. It can be difficult to 'turn off' work at the end of the day and clients and other attorneys now reach out beyond normal business hours more often. Setting boundaries and finding new habits are important. My wife, also an attorney, is working from home and she and my dog are great temporary office mates. I do believe that the practice of law is, ideally, collaborative and involves teams of experts so I miss being in the office as well as seeing our office dog Mattie (a Beagle). The social aspects of my office are replaced with more time for walking my dog and take-out from my neighborhood food spots. It does feel isolating at times especially when I cannot celebrate closing a fundraising or big partnership with a client with dinner or drinks.
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 use the same technology but have noticed that text messages and Slack have become more readily used. Clients and other attorneys feel more comfortable texting me during the lockdown so the barriers between personal and professional use of text messaging are changing. More clients are also using FaceTime and Zoom, as well. It’s taken a minute to get used to but, after two months of quarantine, video-conferencing has become second nature. While it’s hard to see the positives in these uncertain times, I’m incredibly thankful we live in such a digitally interconnected world - trying to be an attorney remotely even ten years ago would have been a massive headache.
Does working remotely impact your ability to communicate with clients?
Arguably, because we’re all at home and by our phones and computers most of the day, communicating with clients is easier than ever before. I’ve found clients to be very responsive via email and text and, besides the occasional walk around the block with my black lab, Nickie, I am rarely far away from my computer. I also feel barriers are broken down a bit as clients are more open about how they are doing and what is occurring in their personal lives. Strangely, I feel closer to some clients as a result of the lockdown even though we cannot physically meet.
What aspects of remote work do you like the least and the most?
Many of my clients I’ve worked with for years. Getting to see the folks I’m doing business with face-to-face is one of my favorite aspects of being an attorney. I definitely miss lunch meetings over sushi, quick check-ins over coffee, and getting to see my incredibly talented coworkers every day. That being said, I love being able to spend more time with my wife, Sheri, and my dog. Getting a chance to cook more meals at home has been a welcome treat. Spending less time in the car and more time walking around our lovely neighborhood in Santa Monica has been incredibly refreshing. I save about an hour a day from the commute and not having to get ready for work. This has helped me sleep and exercise more, which feels like found time. I do not miss LA traffic!
If you would like to speak to Aaron or any other corporate and transactional lawyers in the Priori network, please put in an RFP here