Well so far this year has been somewhat different to what we all had planned. Back at the start of the year, we could not imagine how we would all have been affected by the global pandemic of Covid-19. I was looking forward to starting a new job in a field that I love but closer to home, which would allow me more flexibility with my working hours for a better work life balance. The date was set and I was to start on the 6th April2020. As new jobs go, I was very much looking forward to working in a niche firm solely doing family Law work. I had luckily “popped in” to the new firm prior to starting so I could meet my colleagues and gain a bit of insight into the computer system I would be working with. Thank goodness I did as fast forward 6 weeks, and bam, Covid-19 stopped everyone in their tracks and my new working environment was my laptop on the kitchen table and team meetings were via Zoom. Not the first day I had imagined, however my commute was considerably shorter, but the proximity to the kettle and biscuit tin have not been so positive!
I have been incredibly lucky to be working with some amazing colleagues who have been very supportive and accommodating of “the newbie” with an armload of “how do I do xyz….” questions. We are able to be flexible as we have good IT systems, and it does not matter whether we are in the office or working from home, and being a paperless office has definitely been an incredible advantage in these complicated times.
The pandemic has taught us all a few major life lessons and made us all reassess our priorities and consider what is normal. Gone are the client meetings in the office and we have all welcomed Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp with open arms. We have seen, in the space of only a few months how we have changed the way we do business and the way we conduct ourselves.
The changing landscape that Covid-19 has created, has meant that we have all needed to be more flexible and think outside the box, whether that be in our working lives or personal lives and we have all had to become more patient, whether that be queuing in the supermarket, the realisation that our plans have had to become more fluid or when dealing with a client who needs to amend child contact arrangements as pre-Covid ones were simply not feasible.
For a number of people though, the sheer fact of being “locked down” with their partners/ wives/husbands has not been a pleasant one, or made them realise that they need to do something about their current situation. We have all seen the stories about the huge increase in domestic violence and I was pleased to see some major supermarkets printing helpline numbers on till receipts, as going out to do the shopping might be a domestic abuse victims only break from an abusive situation.
Although many solicitor’s offices are still not “open”, we are all working in the new normal, no longer are office meetings the norm. The vast majority of our work is conducted over email, telephone and online meetings. It is effectively business as normal, just not in the office.
The same can be said for the court. Hearings are still taking place and work is still being conducted but not just in the physical court room. In fact being in court is the exception rather than the norm. Court hearings are taking place over the phone and via Skype or Teams as video hearings. The courts have had no choice but to become flexible too. If you are one of those people that Covid has affected in a non-positive way and you need some advice as to what your options are when separating from your partner/spouse or you are having issues agreeing arrangements for your children, we are here for you to guide you in these challenging times.
Amanda Stopps, Consultant Solicitor