Pandemic Stories: How D.C. Attorneys Are Staying on Track

By Stacy Julien

April 22, 2020

One thing is certain about the coronavirus pandemic — it has forced America to rethink how it hustles and bustles. What have government-mandated quarantines meant for attorneys and law students who are constantly on the grind? The D.C. Bar caught up with a couple of Bar members and a 3L to find out how they’re coping with life and work at home. 

Jared Miller: Leaning on Faith 

Jared MillerA few months ago, Jared Andrew Miller, an adjunct law professor, business advisor, and husband, could barely find a spare moment for himself. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly slowed him down and given him a new perspective on life. 

“I find myself pausing throughout the day to reflect on how truly blessed I am to be breathing, period,” says Miller, who practices corporate governance and employee benefits law, goes on speaking engagements, and more through Jared Miller Ventures. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, he currently lives in Dallas and is licensed to practice in the District of Columbia, Texas, Minnesota, and North Dakota. 

“My wife and I have done all the usual activities to keep ourselves distracted during the pandemic: catching up on work, getting late starts on building our ‘summer bodies,’ and diving into spring cleaning.” Miller is also using his social media platform (@jaredsfoto) to encourage his followers to be smart and strategic with financial investments during the pandemic. 

Above all, he’s using the time to lean on his faith and see the broader picture. The deaths from the virus are surreal to him. “All human beings on earth are equal, and no death is sadder or more important than the next. Yet, this pandemic has forced me to be more introspective. I realize that, subconsciously, I don’t associate America with defeat,” Miller says. But even with America’s “might, money, technological advancement, and brilliance … we are just a vulnerable collective made up of vulnerable creatures,” he says. 

Witnessing the virus take so many lives, cripple a global economy in mere weeks, and stay one step ahead of the brightest minds makes Miller believe that a supernatural intervention is required. “Do not confuse ‘supernatural’ as a parting of the sky, but the subtle dissemination of knowledge and strength delivered to the right people at the right time to defeat this foe,” he says. “These interventions are what keep the world afloat, our human spirits high, and will again lead us through these uncertain times.” 

Miller says he is blessed to see another day and to go through this ordeal with a sound mind, open heart, and strengthened faith. He also hopes others are inspired to find deeper value in the things that are important. “It is therapeutic and in everyone’s best interest to take a reflective pause and see what this experience is communicating to them,” he says. 

Rachel Rintelmann: Making the Balancing Act Work 

Rachel RintelmannThe coronavirus crisis threw Rachel Rintelmann’s life off course like most others. But she’s persevered through tough times before and sees this as another one to overcome.  

“I didn’t think it would get this bad this quickly. One day we were told it’s going to be OK, then the next day we’re in a crisis,” says the supervising attorney in the Housing Law Unit at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Rintelmann represents tenants and tenant associations in cases before the D.C. Superior Court, including evictions, complaints arising under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, and matters relating to housing conditions and discrimination. She now juggles work at home while she and her husband manage three young children, ages 6, 4, and 1. The quarantine was especially critical for her four-year-old daughter, who has a rare genetic disorder and compromised immune system.  

“She has respiratory challenges. Oddly enough, we were more equipped to handle situations like this, but it’s scary because there’s still a level of uncertainty,” Rintelmann says. She finds some comfort in knowing that the public is taking COVID-19 seriously, which helps protect everyone, including her daughter. 

But it’s a lot, she says, and work alone can be emotionally exhausting. Rintelmann keeps her calm by baking delicious cakes for the family and taking advantage of quiet times. “Baking is one of my stress releases. My six-year-old son loves to help and get in the kitchen with us,” she says. They recently pulled off a butterfly cake for her daughter’s birthday on March 22. “We tried to make it an occasion with the cake and her favorite meal. She was totally happy.” The youngest turned one on April 4. “He’s thrilled just to have us all around him at the same time, enjoying the extra attention,” Rintelmann says. 

Rintelmann and her husband divide responsibilities to make sure neither one is overwhelmed. “He does the cooking and washes the dishes; I do the baking and boatloads of laundry. Each morning we compare calendars to divide childcare shifts depending on which of us has a call or video conference on which it would be OK to have baby noise in the background,” she says. 

He encourages her to get out for bike rides and take time to decompress on stressful days. “And I try to do the same for him. We’ve been through really stressful times together before — our daughter was in the hospital for an extended period, [and we experienced] the illnesses and deaths of both our moms — so we are actually pretty well-equipped to handle a crisis together.”  

Through it all, she’s learning to take things day by day and appreciate what she has. Rintelmann says she’s fortunate to be able to continue working and helping clients who are facing economic and housing instability during this difficult time, and she’s happy to have the flexibility to take care of her family at home. 

“I never have to look very far to know how lucky I am. My youngest just took his first step. We were actually home to see that!”  

Kendall Spencer: Creating a New Structure 

Kendall SpencerA soon-to-be law school graduate and Olympic hopeful, Kendall Spencer’s life was packed with activity — from taking classes to studying to training. But the spread of COVID-19 forced him to slow down, pivot, and see what he’s truly made of. 

“I’m really big on mental toughness. This has removed a lot the distraction,” says Spencer, who wants to practice technology law. “It’s forced us to be disciplined and structured in what we do. I have to create space for myself to get things done.” 

Spencer was on a mission to earn his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center and train for the 2020 Summer Olympics in track and field. “In addition to taking my classes, I was getting up at the crack of dawn and going to Portland, Maine, on weekends to train with my coach,” he says. 

Spencer is in Portland now under shelter-in-place orders, far from classmates and even farther from his family in California. He sees only his coach and a training partner. “Not knowing when I’ll see my family again is disheartening. I’m in the middle of nowhere trying to make things happen.” 

By nature, he’s a planner who works backwards from a goal. Spencer strategically set up this third year of school to focus on training and prepare for graduation. Now all those plans have been pushed back, including his bar exam, which is scheduled for the fall. 

But it’s what must be done, he says. And that includes accepting the idea of virtual classes, which leaves him and other classmates uneasy. “When you’re a law student, you miss a critical component of the educational structure online. It’s scaring a lot of us.” 

He describes attending law school and training for the Olympics at the same time as one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do. But they make sense together, Spencer says. Training is his outlet to blow off steam when law school becomes overwhelming, and both gave his day-to-day life structure. Now he’s had to create that structure himself. He plans out his days, dividing time for papers, exams, and training sessions. With no access to a weight room, he takes advantage of his environment, using an open field for sprints or a set of stairs for a strength-training workout. “It’s kind of nice. I’m back to an earlier version of myself when I didn’t have access to the level of training that I had” before the pandemic, Spencer says. 

Olympic officials postponed the games for one year, so by July 2021 he’ll have his law degree. He also has a job offer from a law firm that will start in January. He’s healthy and so is his family back in California. Silver linings. 

“I’m incredibly blessed. Right now, it’s about being resilient until this ends,” Spencer says.