Cooperation and Empathy in the Age of Covid-19 by Mediator Greg Eaton

One of the unexpected consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is an increase in kindness, empathy and cooperation. It’s ironic but our forced social isolation highlights our need to connect with others; the absence of social contact makes us realize how important such contact is. It’s something we took for granted when we could be around others without fear of contracting a potentially deadly virus. We understand and empathize with each other because we are all going through the same thing. In this diverse and sometimes fractured country, the coronavirus has brought us together in ways that seemed unfathomable a couple of months ago.

You see news anchors breaking down reporting stories of people losing loved ones and the unimaginable toll of the pandemic on medical professionals. A few weeks ago, the news was filled with stories about toilet paper hoarders and fights over loaves of bread in the supermarket. Now we hear about those sacrificing their own needs to help others. People volunteer to buy and deliver food to the elderly or those with limited mobility. Doctors and nurses work long hours, often without sufficient protection, deliberately coming into harm’s way to care for and treat people with serious cases of the virus. We gather on Zoom with friends and family for whom we had no time before the pandemic.

You see it in the legal profession as well. Lawyers have become more civil and accommodating with each other. Petty battles over inconsequential things have been replaced by a focus on the important issues. In my own practice, I am seeing more dialogue and cooperation among mediators as we all navigate life in the “new normal.” We share experiences with online mediation and tips on how to make them run smoothly. We talk generally about the challenges of our profession in a world dominated and changed by the virus.

This pandemic and its immediate effect on society and the legal profession will pass. I’m hoping that the virtues of kindness, cooperation and empathy stay with us long after that.