Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 23

STAYING
AFLOAT
SOLOS ON SURVIVING THE PANDEMIC

FEATURE

By John Murph

T

he coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc RENÉE GENTRY
Planning for Harder Times
on the U.S. economy, shuttering businesses
almost two decades of practicing vaccine injury litigation, Renée
and leaving tens of millions of people jobless. After
Gentry decided last year to strike out on her own. "Little did I know that
By late April, the country's unemployment
four months later we would be in the midst of this zombie-like apocarate had surged to its highest level since the lypse," she says. "It's been crazy."
By "crazy" she means busy. Gentry's practice deals with the Health
2008 financial crisis.
Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) National Vaccine Injury

Service businesses such as restaurants, bars, gyms,
and hotels were hit especially hard at the beginning
of the COVID-19 crisis, but the economic fallout from
the lockdowns has since swept across all industries,
including the legal sector. From Big Law to solos, the
legal profession is feeling the pinch of an economy
on pause.

Compensation Program (VICP), designed to provide financial compensation to people who file a petition after being injured by a VICP-covered
vaccine. All vaccine injury claims are managed and adjudicated by the
Office of Special Masters within the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. "The
court is still open," Gentry says. "We are moving forward because it is a
national program. But a lot of it is done telephonically."

As of April, an estimated 10 percent of the D.C. Bar's
110,000 members reported being solo practitioners,
viewed as among the most vulnerable in the legal
world during economic disruptions. Washington
Lawyer checked in with several solo attorneys and
niche firm practitioners to find out how their practices are faring during the coronavirus crisis. Here are
their stories.

In the past four months, Gentry has been in various status conferences
over the phone with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as well as communicating with clients to reassure them that their respective claims are
moving forward. She explains that only court hearings have slowed
down a bit; some have been delayed or extended because either the
client or an expert is over 65 years old and who should not be traveling
to court or trying to do a video hearing elsewhere.

Currently, Gentry has no employees. And even though she has an office
in Washington, D.C., her workspace has been mostly virtual during the
pandemic. "I had an office set up at my house, but I have never really
liked working from home. I am an extrovert," she laughs. "So this has
been a bit of a challenge."

"Today my clients are predominately adults, mostly because of the recent
flu shot," Gentry says. "But anyone who received a vaccine [injury] that is
covered in the program can file a claim."
Gentry, a former president of the Vaccine Injured Petitioners Bar
Association, anticipates more work after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes
widely available in the country. Gentry says the work will start in the
HRSA's Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, but it will likely
end up in the VICP if the vaccine is widely administered to children. "We
could potentially see another increase in filings, as we typically do when
new vaccines are added," she says.
The Office of Special Masters has only eight members who adjudicate all
national cases. The VICP covers 16 vaccines. "Each of the special masters
has well over 200 cases on their docket. The chief special master has over
900," Gentry says.

Renée Gentry, Eric G. Brown Photography

A docket delay was mounting even before the coronavirus pandemic,
and that delay has already impacted Gentry's bottom line. "With fewer

JULY/AUGUST 2020

*

WASHINGTON LAWYER 23



Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Election Coverage
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
When Law Firms Go Remote feature
Disaster Preparedness for Lawyers feature
Staying Afloat feature
Privacy Rights During a Pandemic Feature
Hamilton's Enduring Legacy feature
Annual Report
Taking the Stand
The Learning Curve
On Further Review
Member Spotlight -
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Disciplinary Summaries
Women's Suffrage special section
Speaking of Ethics
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 1
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 2
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Election Coverage
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 10
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 11
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - When Law Firms Go Remote feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 13
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 14
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 15
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 16
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 17
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Disaster Preparedness for Lawyers feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 19
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 20
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 21
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Staying Afloat feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 23
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 24
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 25
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 26
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 27
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Privacy Rights During a Pandemic Feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 29
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 30
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 31
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Hamilton's Enduring Legacy feature
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 33
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 34
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 35
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 36
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Annual Report
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 38
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 39
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 40
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 41
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 45
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Member Spotlight -
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 47
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 49
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Women's Suffrage special section
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 53
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - 55
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - July/August 2020 - Cover4
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