We were required to adapt to the Third National Lockdown in January, having last years’ experience, we had some idea of the requirements to respond. But what happens, if the Coronavirus walks into your office and spreads like wildfire, your team falling prey to its’ debilitating effect, one by one? It can harm and leave you exposed. Activating a Business Continuity plan was a redeeming feature, but functioning upon Skeleton staff, was the daunting challenge for the practice. Before I venture into our reply, a quick review of 2020.
It started with a view of a new decade, a new (Vision 2020), a kind of fresh start to grow the business. The setting in motion of exciting business plans, all being shelved due to the Pandemic and formulating a response, for something that could never have been imagined in our wildest dreams. From evaluating growth curves, to essentially flatlining and considering survival, what a bizarre predicament!
The adage, “Cash is King,” resonates true for all small business and the immediate reflection, was the sense of, “Survival of the fittest.” We figured the entire team needed to remain fit, individual safety and wellness was key, to enable the business to remain healthy and in shape, for its purpose. Immediate considerations of working from home, an obvious solution, adapting the offices to avoid close client contact and even closing to walk in trade, which on a busy high street is a central provider of business. If everyone was locked down, how can we expect anyone to walk in? It became vital to communicate that the practice, was open for Business, through all its platforms.
At this crucial time, there was opportunity to take an inward journey into the body of the business, cut costs and engage the lifeline of what we know as Furlough. This allowed us to first breath, which in turn, gave space to focus and think. The government support packages continued to aid, providing invaluable oxygen, to the business. As seasons changed, so did the trading environment and the Stamp Duty holiday assisted activity in the property sector, which kept business rolling. On balance, the slow down in court activities, impacted on strands of our operations, while others were pushed out.
The diversity of the departmental operations, allowed us to consider strengths and so the focus was not now survival, rather opportunities. Investment into infrastructure and systems facilitated the capability for remote working, virtualising client services, together with promoting agile responses. The delivery of services through digital platforms, reduced client contact, opened a new journey and the year ended much better than could have been expected.
The Virus struck and transmitted through the team despite all the precautions of social distancing, posters plastered over the walls, constant protocol reminders, sneeze screens, sanitiser etc but all efforts failed. One by one, majority staff tested positive. In reply, the office space experienced deep cleaning and fogging until they were safe for occupation.
Calls were being diverted through the communications system and accessibility to reach your Legal Adviser was vital, be it by Watsapp, Email, Teams or Zooms Call. This practice norm had migrated from 2020 and permitted continuity. Partners had to illustrate resilient leadership during such a perilous time. On one hand, keeping the ship on course as well as balancing out the most important factors, individual health, together with ensuring staff prioritising their own well-being.
Health had to be balanced out with matters of productivity, in appropriate measure. The staff who suffered milder forms of COVID, took greater burdens to keep the ship sailing and this equation, assisted in sailing across the Isolation Period. The journey was difficult, teaching that one can overcome adversity, with a strong team, dedicated and committed to quality service and delivery for their clients.
For the most part, fellow professionals exhibited compassion and understanding, which had such a positive impact on the staff ethos. Inwardly, the team were in constant contact with each other, to ensure that full support was offered, a victory for empathy and compassion throughout the practice.
Rounding Up The Journey Ahead
I am most grateful that the teams are back to full strength now and services are crystalising into the new normal, with focus upon digital delivery. Automating systems and making greater use of social platforms will be the future to generate business in our segment.
Agile working policies will be vital in the 2021 to accommodate staff requirements, as we take steps through the Prime Ministers Road Map. How the office spaces will be used is a big question, but it appears that Virtual meetings will become an absolute norm, mitigating risk and future business interruption, with law tech driving us forward.
To conclude, I have found that the Legal Community have gelled quite uniquely during this extraordinary period. It seemed, we all had more time and nurtured a greater understanding for one another knowing, we were all fighting a similar coronavirus battle. The output has resulted in deeper relationships, sharing business, and support for one another. The idea now is to keep building those connections, as together we are all stronger, be it within our own teams, support and form greater collaborations with fellow practitioners in order for us to successfully navigate through the months ahead.