“2020 Sucks.” When I first saw the COVID-themed shirt with the eye-popping slogan online, I laughed. Admittedly, I even almost bought the shirt—until I wondered what I would do with it in 2023. But then I started thinking… Has 2020 really sucked? Or was it just a year of change that produced unexpected opportunities and new things to be grateful for this holiday season?

Every year I write a new version of the same letter where I thank my incredible staff, our clients, our referral partners and everyone else who has supported our growth for seven (!) amazing years. And, of course, I remain grateful to all. Despite the pandemic, 2020 has been our strongest year ever at Liner Legal. We succeeded in getting more clients approved for disability benefits than in any past year and added more staff and services to better serve the community. There is lots of talk in the legal community about the positive changes COVID is having for efficiency in our profession. Phone hearings create less “down time” for the attorneys and allow us to spend more time working on cases. Social Security’s new regulations allowing us to use electronic signatures on client forms allows us to work faster to help clients and shave weeks and sometimes months off the wait times in cases where we would normally have to send many forms back and forth in the mail to get simple tasks accomplished.

But in this year’s gratitude letter, I want to go in another direction and talk about my family. Without the ability to travel and be as mobile as usual, this year I spent more time than ever with my wife and two kids—Eliana and Dylan. It’s not easy having a husband and dad like me who is so devoted to his work. Like so many other people, over the years I have often sacrificed family time to advance my career. But looking back at 2020, with changes triggered by COVID I was able to re-balance my life quite a bit. In the spring my family would often go on long walks through the Cleveland Metroparks, that in the past I might have skipped to review client files. This summer I rented a house for my family in Colorado for a month. Because all of our disability hearings and client meetings are over the telephone right now, nobody outside of my staff had any idea I wasn’t sitting in my Cleveland office. But after work every day I was able to take my kids hiking, white water rafting, and on all sorts of other mountainous adventures. Because she started the school year remotely, I was even able to take Eliana on our first ever daddy-daughter trip to Disney World—masks on the whole time, of course!

There is much to be grateful for in 2020, but what I am most grateful for, and why I don’t agree 2020 has sucked, is that it has made me a better dad.

Regards,

Michael A. Liner, Esq.