My Bright New Chapter

My Bright New Chapter

It was Monday morning; I was pondering my last week off before ending one chapter in my life and starting a new one. After an extended Maternity leave due to COVID and 8 wonderful years at my old firm, I was about to embark on a new journey, new beginnings.

I was a feeling a combination of nervous and excited, this was a great opportunity – I was heading to the City! Except the journey would be via the kitchen and stairs to my upstairs office rather than via London Bridge. Despite the new normal getting in the way I knew there was a wealth of experience ahead and I could not wait to gain it.

I heard a gentle thud on my doormat, the post had arrived. Flowers in a box! Who were they from? A welcome from the firm to say how excited they were to have me join their team next week.  What a lovely touch, a testament to one of the reasons I was joining – my new firm are distinct and set apart from the rest.

All my equipment had arrived the Friday before I was due to start, together with a well organised schedule of my first week packed with diary appointments for meeting my new colleagues and training.

On my first day I was met with cheery welcomes over the phone and Zoom – it is hard of course to get a sense of someone when it is two dimensional but the energy of the firm and the care taken by each of the individuals I spoke to was evident and made me feel very reassured and instantly part of a team.

All the dots were beginning to join up as our new team was mobilised and communications set up so we could keep in daily contact. @SheenaDonlon, who heads up our team was so accessible particularly in my first week, she continues to put me at ease as I embark on my journey with NLS.  Together with a supportive and able paralegal, Sheena has enabled me to hit the ground running. She is a great sounding board on the cases we are dealing with and it has been so beneficial to bounce ideas around with her and troubleshoot different scenarios.

During my first couple of days at NLS, my schedule for training was thrown a curveball…by Tuesday evening an interesting new care case had already come in and by Wednesday I was immersed in a full day contested removal concerning four siblings – this was exactly the kind of work and experience I was looking forward to in my new role.

It wasn’t long before I figured out the remote system for court hearings – having been on leave during lockdown I had missed at least 6 months of virtual hearings which was a new concept for me but one that the Judiciary had fast adapted to. I learned quickly about the various etiquettes for video conferencing in my court hearings and the magic of the “mute” button! In one session an Advocate’s Puppy ran in on him during a pre hearing discussion and was “chomping his toes”, that certainly lightened the mood and we all demanded to see the puppy and were not disappointed when a tiny black Labrador made an appearance on our screens. This really helped build up rapport – the sort you would usually get in a conference or advocates robing room in Court.

I don’t think I will ever get used to the idea of having a Judge and their clerk in my house! But the main thing is we deliver on quality during this time and especially in our line of work ensure that our clients feel well advised and supported.

Having the right systems in place has allowed me to navigate these first couple of weeks with ease.

Initially, I had a few,  to be expected teething problems with my IT as systems were set up and tested for the first time but all gremlins were quickly sorted – nothing was a problem for the IT team and I secretly think they began to look forward to the comedy of my daily calls! They were quick and efficient and helped me understand the system.

I feel like the whole team has helped me – I have had such positive phone calls across the board about all sorts from tips and tricks for mastering the case management system to time recording and the culture of NLS.

Speaking of tricks, Last week we had a fabulous, fancy dress, Halloween quiz headed up by the fantastic @KirstyRichards attended (remotely of course) by the whole firm and our little ones, such a fun family treat in and it was so great to finally put names to faces in a giant zoom call even if the faces were covered in paint and masks, topped with wigs, hats and fangs! Can I apologise now for any faux pas I may make when I realise those weren’t actually your real fangs, I mean teeth when I first “met” you online and I promise not to be offended when you realise that no, I wasn’t wearing a fancy dress outfit myself, I really am just that pale in real life and the lighting on my Zoom camera has been doing me no favours…is that something IT can help me with??

On the subject of light, I think I will end on that note; the future is bright for sure and I am delighted to have joined you all.

Annie Francis – Supervising Solicitor & Advocate – Care Team – NLS

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