P laces We've Been
THE GROUNDED INTERNATIONAL LAWYER By Raúl Villarreal-Garza
“Let’s meet next Tuesday. I will be traveling and will be
The suit and tie that was already being phased out —
coming back to the office next Monday.”
especially in California — seems like a distant memory a few months into the pandemic.
This was a common message we delivered to our clients prior to the pandemic we are currently facing. From one
The good news is that everyone around the world is in the
day to the next, we suddenly stopped having in-person
same situation as us attorneys. For the most part, clients
meetings and traveling. Our homes became our offices. Those of us who practice in the international arena are more than accustomed to international travel. Our lingo includes “Global Entry,” “CBX,” “TSA Pre,” “passport control,” “airport lounge,” and so on. However, earlier this year, a new coronavirus that causes the disease known as COVID-19 changed so many things, including the daily use of these words. These words that once were so embedded in our
cannot travel either, and are also adapting to the new realities brought by the coronavirus. Tech-savvy attorneys and those attorneys willing and able to adapt to new technologies will be the winners in this novel environment. Fortunately, software developers around the world have made technology accessible and user-friendly. Personally, I found figuring out Zoom to be
routines are practically gone. The terms “home office” and
easier than figuring out how to change the time display in
“Zoom meetings” have arrived to replace the travel jargon.
COVID-19 is undoubtedly a game changer for the practice
The correct use of these technologies, however, is
of law, including international law. This disease seems to be
key. We are now having virtual first-time meetings and
staying here for the long run, and has already changed the
therefore, making electronic “first impressions.” If we
way many of us are practicing.
are experiencing difficulties using our new conferencing systems, that could create negative first and lasting
We know we cannot travel, meet, and network the way we
impressions from our potential clients, which could
used to. Social distancing policies around the world prevent
distract from our core legal abilities.
us from shaking hands, which used to be the universal symbol of reaching an agreement. So, what is next? It is as simple as the old saying: “Adapt or die.” These are the two options applicable to many attorneys, including international attorneys. If we cannot substitute the old fashioned travel routines and the in-person “meet and
COVID-19 has redefined how international lawyers live their lives and practice law. We lawyers, usually averse to change, will have to learn to live with these changes and will likely go on with our lives. History has shown what happens if we do not adapt.
greet” habits with effective technology, our practice will eventually die. Instead of hopping on a plane to visit clients overseas,
Raúl Villarreal Garza is an international tax partner at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, LLP.
we now conduct teleconferences from our own homes.
SAN DIEGO LAWYER