Relationship building will take work post-pandemic

The human connection will return, writes Tim Wilbur

Relationship building will take work post-pandemic

When the sky felt like it was falling in early 2020, no one knew what the long-term impact of the pandemic was going to be. Would the economy grind to a halt? Would our health-care system collapse?

Luckily, many of the doomsday scenarios didn’t play out, and the impact, while dramatic for some, was more muted for many. White-collar workers, in particular, carried on as usual once they settled into their new home offices, and the overall economy survived despite dramatic effects in some sectors.

M&A didn’t slow down at all in 2020 for David Felicissimo, general counsel at Valsoft Corp. and Valnet Inc. Despite the buoyant market, though, a lack of face-to-face meetings did present certain obstacles and slowed down transactions. 

“Personal meetings build a sense of trust and connection, so without that, the deals did drag on a little bit longer,” says Felicissimo. “We’ve even walked away from deals where we can feel it falling apart because of the lack of face to face.”

Felicissimo’s experience points to a real challenge that the pandemic will pose long after we are all vaccinated: fraying personal relationships. 

In our Ethics column, long-time GC Ken Fredeen stresses the importance of personal relationships to a reader who wonders how to help colleagues who ask for individual legal advice.

“We have limited time. We are careful not to step over the line as [colleagues] are not our clients, but I think it is a mistake for in-house lawyers to simply say: ‘Sorry, I can’t help you,’” writes Fredeen. “For me, [my job] was about building relationships, showing value and providing access to justice for people who needed help.”

In other words, relationships take work, but it is worth it.

While following Fredeen’s advice was not impossible during the pandemic, there have been significant obstacles. While most in-house counsel were lucky enough to work remotely, they did lose something by working alone. 

But Fredeen’s advice, and Felicissimo’s challenges, mean we should not downplay what we have lost. The human connection will return as the pandemic wanes, but it will take work to get back to normal. 

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