In Recess

Going the Virtual Distance

New attorneys Defeat COVID-19 challenges to hit the ground running

Interview by Adam Faderewski

Brianna Hardee and James Perry after a race and in front of the 
LEFT: Above, Brianna Hardee and James Perry after finishing one of the virtual races they did during quarantine. RIGHT: Above, Hardee and Perry after both were sworn in (socially distanced) by Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman. Photos courtesy of Briana Hardee.

To say that COVID-19 changed almost everything we know about our lives—working from home, social distancing, wearing masks—is an understatement. But at the start of 2020, Brianna Hardee was finishing her last semester of law school while her boyfriend, James Perry, was awaiting the results of his bar exam. The couple ran races not only for general well-being but also to de-stress and unwind. Then the coronavirus came and monthly races were pushed back, bar exam dates were delayed, and an in-person swearing-in ceremony for new lawyers was rendered impossible. The world adapted to the new way of doing things. James was sworn in as an attorney virtually. Brianna sat for a socially distanced bar exam in North Carolina (James drove the whole way so she could continue studying). Brianna was sworn in (socially distanced) at the Texas Supreme Court by Justice Eva Guzman, who also took the time to swear in James for a second time. Becoming a new lawyer is stressful, even more so in 2020, but Briana and James found a way to get into the finish line—through virtual road races.

How often were you running races prior to the COVID-19 pandemic?
All the time! I started running with my mom in January 2019, and we would do at least one to two official races a month. We even did the Houston half-marathon in January 2020.

Where did you learn about virtual races?
A lot of companies, like Houston Running Company, started sending out emails about the possibility of virtual runs when it became clear that actual runs weren’t going to happen. We had a run that was supposed to happen in April, but it kept getting kicked back until finally they went virtual. I started seeing ads for other companies as well on social media.

How does one go about signing up for a race and participating in it?
It’s all really easy; there is usually an online sign-up. There is typically a fee, usually around $30 to $40. Usually they’ll do packet pickup the week before so you can get your bib and gear (like T-shirts) and then you just show up with your bib on your shirt and run!

Is there an honor system for completing races or do you have to provide some sort of data as proof?
It’s an honor system. A lot of companies will have a place to go and log your results, but it’s not like you won’t get a medal if you don’t do it. They send you the medal with the bib and gear. I actually have a couple medals sitting around for races I need to run. I could hang them on my medal rack, but I haven’t earned them yet.

How many virtual races have you participated in?
We’ve done four so far. We have three more that we’re set to run sometime before April when I will begin Judge Advocate General’s Corps training.

Brianna: I think the opposite actually. Virtual races don’t compare to regular races. I miss the adrenaline of race day with other runners. It’s been fun because we run them as a family, but it still isn’t the same.

James: Yeah, a little bit. I think to the extent that running the races has given us a sense of the routine that we had prior to gyms being closed and races canceled.

Will you continue to run virtual races in the future? Are you looking forward to the day when you can run road races alongside people again?

Brianna: We have three more races that we’ve signed up for that we need to run, although being a new attorney has made finding the time difficult. I absolutely can’t wait to go back to running races in person. It’s hard to explain runner’s high and race adrenaline, but it’s real.

James: I look forward to in-person races again because of the competitive drive that comes with it. The virtual races are fun in that Brianna and I do them together and can motivate each other, but they don’t have the same feel as being in a group of people and competing with all of them.

Brianna Hardee and James Perry after a race and in front of the 
ABOVE: Right, Brianna Hardee is sworn in at the Texas Supreme Court. Above: Left, James Perry is sworn in virtually by Judge Clarinda Comstock. Photos Courtesy of Brianna HarDee

You were sworn in either virtually or via social distancing. What was that experience like?

Brianna: I had the pleasure of being sworn in by Justice Eva Guzman at the Texas Supreme Court, by happenstance. I tagged her on Twitter, and she reached out and said she would be happy to do it. It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done. She allowed me to bring my parents, too, masked and distant of course, but it was amazing. We stood six feet apart and she administered the oath. My parents cried seeing me finally become an attorney after everything I’ve been through personally. I took an in-person bar exam, which scared me, but I got lucky that nothing came from it. A lot of my friends were sworn in virtually, including my boyfriend, so I feel grateful I was able to do what I did. Justice Guzman actually swore him in again.

James: The experience was remarkable as I had the distinguished privilege to become a member of the State Bar of Texas and interestingly, be one of the first generations of attorneys to be sworn in virtually when COVID-19 cases in Houston began to drastically rise. From the living room of my apartment, I was sworn in with family and work colleagues, some of whom were using online teleconferencing mediums for the first time. They tuned in from around the city of Houston for the swearing-in ceremony that was administered by Judge Clarinda Comstock. I am beyond appreciative of the judge’s willingness to administer the oath in what has to be one of the most unorthodox ceremonies she has every participated in during her career on the bench. While as a law student I dreamed of the ceremony as this momentous occasion in a classic courtroom setting surrounded by family and friends, the virtual swearing in was nonetheless memorable as I am among the very few who can say that they became a licensed attorney during a global pandemic. TBJ

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