I think one of the best things resulting from the pandemic is a real emphasis on the term “flexible”
Flexible “capable of bending easily without breaking” – this would describe my experience as a key employee at NLS – Nothing is a problem – we are enabled to work around whatever comes our way, either professional or personal and supported in the process.
The nation, the world, has had to pivot; the three “R’s” have in my mind have been redefined to mean regroup, reflect and reform how we understand time and the working world. Gone are the archaic and outdated days traditionally understood in the legal world of having to “be seen” at your desk for your core contracted hours.
Whilst we may not be “seen” so much these days – we are still very visible and that is on account of the positive impact we have had on our clients, colleagues, and fellow professionals during these unprecedented times.
We know when it comes to Childcare law, there really is no “9 to 5” so Dolly Parton’s soundtrack to my working day has never quite resonated.
Flexible working is one of the major benefits stemming from the pandemic and really endorses a relationship of trust between employer and employee.
We all work hard, and at NLS, my experience is we are enabled to perform well, with flexibility woven into our days and evenings so we can manage both professional and personal pressures as we see fit.
Prior to the pandemic, the general sense I got from workplaces across the board was that “flexible working” was just an idea. At a previous Firm I happened to have progressive and forward-thinking HR Manager who was campaigning for this for a while prior to the pandemic which first planted the idea in my mind, something previously I did not think possible. This excited me, but “a long way off” … I thought.
Then, 2020 happened and the hand was forced.
Coming out of the pandemic, NLS have collaborated closely with their workforce about the sort of balance we would like to see between office and home working and what might be possible to ensure at the same time, we maintain our quality assurance with trainees and paralegals. And maintaining the culture of a firm which prides itself on prioristing the value of relationships and teamwork; something those virtual meetups can only serve so far. NLS keep their policy for flexible working constantly under review.
Working from home has been wonderful and particularly for Barristers and Solicitors undertaking their own Advocacy, the flexibility of remote hearings via video has been fantastic. Personally, for our clients, we have been able to do more Court work for them which ensures consistency on their cases. Many LinkedIn posts and social media updates share how with good humour we have embraced the challenge of video Court hearings with some being so bold as to share amusing pictures of how they are all dressed (or not!) from the waist down, from wearing fluffy slippers, to shorts, to snazzy havianas all whilst delivering serious submissions to a Judge.
We are not made to work in isolation but somehow the magic of zoom, teams and CVP has really compensated for this as best as possible. I recently attended a seminar on diversity and disability at the Bar and it goes without saying that the remote hearings have been remarkable at enabling members of the Bar and other advocates with a disability ( seen or unseen) to conduct more hearings than they would otherwise physically be able to – it has increased access, exposure and ultimately income for these individuals.
I agree a balance needs to be brokered and the return to work will take careful navigation across the workforce – we all need time to get used to this again. The approach at NLS and my personal experience has been incredibly positive. NLS are constantly evaluating how it is all working.
We have a happy balance between our beautifully located Monument based offices, with the breezy walk over London Bridge for the buzz of catch ups with our team and the solace and peace of our own home offices where we can buckle down and make progress with drafting for example.
Being back in court in person is also on the increase and this is especially good for vulnerable clients or those with learning difficulties- communicating over video is never as beneficial as face to face- though I couldn’t get away with just my top half and face being presentable for a recently attended hearing– it was such an effort to learn to walk in those heels again! So excited was I to be back in person that the gusto with which I walked to the Court building led to a bit of a problem arising enroute. I misjudged the stretch in my suit dress and bust the seam a little too far than one would consider decent- thankfully, the benefit of being in front of a District Judge that afternoon meant I could give my submissions sitting down! As I sidled out of the court room, I put my overcoat on with haste and dreamt of being back in my tracksuit the following day for my home desk.
It will take a bit of time, but we are all moving in the right direction. We are continuing to grow and develop our Care team in the City so if you like what you have heard in this blog, apart from the wardrobe malfunction – do get in touch!
Anne Francis – Supervising Solicitor