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Business Observer Friday, Apr. 24, 2020 2 months ago

Attorney's pandemic mantra: this too shall pass

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Henderson Franklin stockholder Amanda Barritt balances tasks and injects humor to help get through the crisis.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

Company: Henderson Franklin Attorneys at Law

Employees: 143, including more than 55 attorneys

Executive: Amanda Barritt, stockholder Fort Myers office and chairwoman of firm’s real estate and condominium and homeowners’ association practice group.

Working situation: I am fortunate to be able to work from home, which I do on occasion in normal circumstances, so I was already set up to do it. I use a laptop at home, and I love being able to work outside on the lanai or even now and then sitting on my bed.

             See more: During pandemic and other challenges, founder says attitude is everything 

Biggest working from home challenge: The biggest challenge is mainly that things take a little longer to do in the remote computer system. Our IT department has done an amazing job in a short period of time making necessary upgrades to allow most of our staff and attorneys to work remotely, but now and then there are some things you have to handle a little differently.

Most important lesson you've learned in the shutdown: I think there are many lessons, so I don’t think I can name just one.

A couple of our top managers, Ken Crooks and JoAnn Cherrington, are pretty new to the firm, and I have learned that we are lucky to have them. Their leadership, planning skills and flexibility have been invaluable to our firm, and so far we have been fortunate to be able to avoid moving to the more drastic phases of the proposed plans.

A couple other lessons that have been impressed upon me is we have had all this technology at our fingertips, and I think it has been underutilized. The firm, schools, stores, restaurants and doctor’s offices were all very quickly able to provide a lot of important services through the internet that were available previously but probably used only a fraction of what they are being used now, and this transition happened seemingly in the matter of days. 

Finally, and maybe this is most important to me, is I am really enjoying life being a lot more slow and quiet. We have been taking drives and bike rides together, doing art projects, cooking meals at home a lot more and watching movies as a family. With all the extra activities and events in our “prior life,” this time was going by the wayside. I have a hard time turning down opportunities, but I think this experience will really make me think harder about how our family should spend our precious time outside of school and the office. 

Books, articles, TV shows, podcasts and/or audiobooks you’ve focused on: I like to escape with my downtime, and I am a huge podcast listener. My guilty pleasure is reality shows, so naturally, I listen to several comedy podcasts, some of which jokingly recap the reality shows ("Watch What Crappens" and "Rose Pricks"). A few great podcasts, which are still entertaining but a bit more on the meaningful side, are "Heavyweight," "Science Vs" and "Every Little Thing."

How far out into the future are you looking? As part of the leadership of our firm, we review our finances on a weekly basis, and our managers have a plan through the end of the year depending on how things progress. On a personal level, I am generally an optimist and try to take things one day at a time. I believe you have no choice with the constant changes we are seeing. I live by the adage, “This too shall pass,” and I believe that it won’t be too long before most of us will be able to look back and realize this bizarre moment was life-changing, but most of us made it through, learned lessons, adapted and are stronger for it, just like all of the prior challenges and crises people have faced over the years.

How do you keep the team motivated? I think communication is key and being available to address questions and concerns. Our staff has a pretty good sense of humor, so we meet on a conference call weekly to catch up and try to have a few laughs. I try to provide them with as much information as I can to reassure them that the firm has a plan in place and that drastic measures will only be taken as a last resort. 

Exercise or stress relief have you’ve turned to during the crisis: Walking the dog, riding bicycles and online Zumba classes.

Last trip to out of the house: My last trip was to Publix, but our family took an outing in our Jeep last weekend to drive around Ding Darling National Refuge in Sanibel. That was a nice no-contact escape where we saw a few critters and took in some nature for a couple of hours.

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