Linsey Ferguson, Partner, reflects on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on aspects of her work and looks to the future.
It is fair to say that the Covid 19 pandemic brought uncertainty and unsettled all aspects of life and work as we had known it. For me, as well as caring for nursery and school-age children at home and attempting to take on the role of ‘teacher’ (not a career choice I had considered before, and now I see why!), many aspects of my working life had become different, and more difficult, and it took time to find my feet.
We went from a full complement of staff working from the Musselburgh branch office (where I am based) to staggering staff attendance, to then having only one member of staff based in the office once the national lockdown was announced in March 2020.It was a similar picture throughout the Firm. That all needed to be communicated to Staff and carefully managed.It was a constantly evolving situation, and it was challenging juggling that with a full caseload and homeschooling. It was certainly a crash course in multi-tasking! We had never before had such a large number of staff working from home, so our IT department was stretched making sure that we were still able to carry on working at a consistent level. Teams were having to navigate new ways of working. Once straightforward office tasks became more complicated, such as posting mail and printing emails, and solutions needed to be found.
The Courts, and in particular, the Sheriff Courts, were experiencing difficulties navigating the new situation too, and most cases were ‘paused’ whilst a solution was worked out. Communicating that to clients was essential, but also too was understanding their frustration and concerns, acknowledging the uncertainty that was going to bring to their lives for an unknown period. The Sheriff Courts initially began progressing cases by telephone conference and now, in some courts, by Webex (a secure video call platform). Whilst not a perfect solution in every case, it has meant that cases are now progressing at a reasonable pace.
Meetings with new clients had to take on a whole new ‘virtual’ dimension, being conducted by video call. This was essential to serving our client base and making sure that the business remained accessible. There have been the inevitable ‘technical problems from time to time, but generally speaking, I think it has worked well for the continuity of our services.
I am hopeful that the U.K. is now beginning to see an improving picture in terms of the pandemic and one which is sustainable. Whilst the pandemic brought with it uncertainty, I have appreciated seeing the way my colleagues have adapted and overcome difficulties in a team effort. As a business, we have all pulled together to provide the continuity needed to progress and grow, and I have a huge amount of respect for our staff who have worked so hard, in every aspect of the business, to achieve that. We are now looking to life on the other side, and many aspects of working from home and flexible working are here to stay, for which I am glad.