Evans C. Agrapidis is an Attorney at Law in the States of New Jersey and New York. Currently his offices are located in Jersey City on John F. Kennedy Blvd. and on State Highway Route 17 in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
He has been a partner in the law firm of Agrapidis and Maroules, formerly Leanza, Agrapidis & Maroules, for 32 years and specializes in Personal Injury matters. His office has handled more than 12,000 matters varying in size and complexity. He graduated Magna cum Laude with Honors from Syracuse University and received his law degree from Seton Hall University.
How has your industry been impacted since the onset of COVID-19?
Because our business revolves around personal injury cases it has been impacted greatly. People are not out and about, working or driving or shopping, so when we’re in lockdown mode, business is reduced significantly. Our business was reduced especially during the three lockdown months in our area. On top of that, there was a lot more fear of the unknown so clients did not want to have meetings with their attorney in person. And most importantly, the courts shut down. That significantly affected our workload.
We now have Zoom access to the courts to handle simple hearings and conferences with the judges but jury trials have not started yet and were recently delayed into 2021. Lawyers are not going to court. They’re still trying to figure out how to safely and effectively get jurors, lawyers, witnesses and judges all in the same courtroom safely. It’s a logistical challenge.
How do you keep your staff motivated in the office during the pandemic?
These times definitely called for confident leadership. I called a meeting back in March and explained that we were heading into a difficult time, then delivered regular status emails about where we as a firm are heading on a month-to-month basis. I wanted to build the confidence of my staff that they’re going to have job security. I preached “We’re in this as a team, let’s try to get through this as a team.”
As a busines owner you feel responsible, and as a leader you want your people to feel secure. The head of the firm sacrifices for the benefit of keeping jobs secure. That’s the way it is. I understand my role, and my promise to them was that benefits were going to stay in place, jobs were going to be secure. I couldn’t predict longer than 2021, but it gave everyone a level of comfort to hear that we were secure for a year or two.
Suggestions of good ways others can cope during this time.
On a personal level, I think getting outdoors and not staying cooped up helps. Exercise is important. I also like to listen to music. I think it’s uplifting and better for the soul than negative TV and radio. All those things are what I’m practicing. I think it’s a good way to cope. Also being spiritual and prayerful and staying mindful that we’re going to get through this and there will be better things tomorrow.
What does your typical day look like now versus prior to social isolation?
I’m working about 50% remote at the moment, so my mornings involve starting my day with exercise and getting out of my house to take a few deep breaths. I then start my remote work day; later in the day I’ll visit the office. It’s quite a change from the typical 9-to-5 before social isolation started.
Our office building is open, but I’d say only 30% of the businesses are back to work. My team is all in the office, and we’re not working as much remotely lately.
How does working remotely change how you are interacting with clients?
We interact a lot less with our clients. They’re all very understanding. I have two locations, one of which was impacted by COVID more than the other, so we closed it to quarantine. Those clients understood they couldn’t go to that office, so if they needed to meet with us, I would send transportation for them to meet at our other location. Of course, we all wear masks, we’re all socially distanced. We’re doing depositions by Zoom. Arbitrations are being done by Zoom. Some of my clients are not very computer literate, so the lawyers stay present through the Zoom process. These new habits change the whole dynamic but everyone understands. It has been pretty encouraging. Everyone seems to be okay with it.
What is one piece of advice that is getting you through these current times?
I tell my children how important it is to wake up in the morning and be a positive thinker. Try to pray if you can. Clear your racing mind in the morning and say a little prayer of gratitude. Be thankful for getting through the hardships, and do not live in fear. Continue to try to live life and be careful, but if you live in fear, you’re going to find it more and more difficult to get through these times.
How has volunteering changed since the onset of the pandemic?
My main volunteer time goes to my church community. It has been that way for years. I’ve been on the parish council. In addition to businesses, churches have been locked down as well. Now they’re back at 25% of what they were. Meetings and fundraisers and outreach projects have been limited because people are not getting together. One of our big fundraisers is a Greek festival that we run, and that festival brings in 4,000 to 5,000 people on a weekend. It’s big. Obviously, we couldn’t have that so our volunteer time has dropped accordingly. However, we have managed to fundraise without being in person. We put together a virtual festival this year; a festival without having a festival. It was pretty successful. People came through and they donated anyway, even though they weren’t getting a festival experience in return. They donated from their hearts.
How can people support charities and not-for-profits during COVID-19?
It’s not a complex answer. If you’re aware of a charity and you’re financially able, this is the time to donate. You can donate with time, talent and treasure. It’s tough to volunteer when you can’t be there in person. The best way right now is through donations, whether it’s donating clothes or funds or food, that’s what a lot of these organizations require right now.
What type of volunteer work do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy volunteering in our church community. It’s a Greek church community so it’s not only the religious aspect that fulfills me but also the cultural side. We have dance groups, prayer groups and mission groups. We have a lot of outreach and I enjoy being a leader in my church community. They needed people to step up and it became my turn to get involved and volunteer after my children finished school and college. I tried to be involved in my thirties and I remember going to a couple of board meetings with two of my sons in their little league outfits. One of the elderly gentlemen said, “Listen I know you have your heart in the right place and you want to volunteer, but you need to spend time with your children. You’ll have your turn down the road.” He was a real sweet man. He gave me good advice and I’ll never forget that.