My Year of the Pandemic

peterdlederer
5 min readMay 2, 2021

Today is my birthday. That gives cause to reflect how Year One of the Pandemic has gone for me, my much-loved family, and friends. It begins with the blessed fact that no one in that circle has been ill with COVID-19, and all are now fully vaccinated!

Light the candles on the cake!

(H/T NEW YORK TIMES. The candle count is slightly exaggerated.)

Pain and sorrow there has been aplenty, from the death of my dear cousin and friend Heinz to the shared horrors of the pandemic, the agonies of billions across the globe, the tragedies of racism in my country, and much more. There has been such a tidal wave of deprivations, large and small, that the whole structure and fabric of nations, societies, and communities have been altered forever. Livelihoods have been destroyed, and fortunes have been created. Images of terror have been burned into our minds,

But so too have images of hope.

And there are the personal displacements: a whole year without seeing my daughter, sister, and grandson in person. A year where my wife can’t visit her family in Japan, and “travel” for us has become distances of 15 or 20 miles. Visiting friends and neighbors, or a restaurant, or a musical event, all these begin to recede in memory.

Some slight changes in the rhythms of my life catch my attention: Since birth, there has not been a single year where I have not spent nights away from home. But since March 19, 2020, I have spent every single night in the same bed!

That’s minor, and it’s a comfortable bed, but still, somehow, it symbolizes the immobility imposed by the pandemic.

Parallel to all this, there has been an unexpected development for me: a remarkable silver lining of creative activity brought about, in part enabled, by the pandemic. Here is what I’ve been up to in the past twelve months.

➜With two gifted friends, Andrea Sinner and Holly Fisher, created, funded, and ran two iterations of Passport to Practice for several hundred students from around the world.

Passport to Practice served to strengthen the bonds and friendships created over the years (heavily via Twitter!) with colleagues worldwide and increasingly with students. The need to help each other through this crisis period led to my participation in an ever-increasing number of new groups.

➜There is Jason Barnwell’s TLDR Business of Law Teams group, a fount of intense creativity. I keep learning.

➜Cat Moon is on a fiery crusade for justice in law and in life, with an open door for all who want to join in to help. I enlisted.

➜Swiss friends and colleagues Chris Kueng and Maurus Schreyvogel asked me to join their new Global LegalTech Consortium.

GLTC is a platform to bring together those involved in legal technology from Africa to Australia to the Middle East and beyond. We speak the same language and are building a new community.

➜Working with Kevin Colangelo of IFLP, the Institute for Future Law Practice, I arranged to make their new virtual Modern Law Practice course available at nominal cost or free to several hundred Miami Law students.

➜Co-convened and helped lead Convo4, the 4th annual conference on the future of legal practice, held (virtually) at

Virtual or in person, this is an excellent forum for stimulating ideas.

➜Served as the Official Kibitzer for Trish White’s and Andrea Sinner’s exciting new 1L course

The class was a great experience, and we saw once again how successful an unconventional teaching approach could be with a group of 70 bright, engaged students.

➜There was a lot of time on social media; I tweeted over 2,000 times and posted on LinkedIn, Medium, and my blog. I also attended twenty or so conferences “in” various cities of Asia, Europe, and the United States. The quotation marks reflect that all of this was virtual. And that brings me to my final point.

I turned 91 today. The Internet, a decent home office setup and equipment, and such indispensable software as Zoom have made it possible for me to be active and productive. My physical presence was not essential; that vastly increased the number of activities I could participate in.

There are many reasons why the post-pandemic world should not revert to the status quo ante. Environmental and cost savings, greater flexibility for many in structuring their lives, are part of an almost endless list of known factors to consider. I appreciate the counter-considerations: the burning desire to teach or attend class in person; the desire to recapture the spontaneity of business encounters at conferences or the coffee machine. But in the future, the balance should shift to the virtual.

For me, the virtual world is a fantastic alternative to being shut out from a world of activities I cherish and value. For a law student in Istanbul or a young lawyer in KwaZulu-Natal, this may be the only feasible way to participate in LawWorld 2.0! Think also of the millions who are all too often ignored: persons with disabilities or whose mobility is otherwise impaired. For them as well, new worlds are available.

I am curious to see what my 91st year will bring. No complaints about the 90th! I close with a favorite image from the work of Pablo Picasso — how I imagine he might see me today were he to have known I existed.

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peterdlederer

Lawyer, student, sometime teacher, co-founder of #LawWithoutWalls and of #PassportToPractice. Experiencing life as an electronically peripatetic nonagenarian.