Soliciting in a Pandemic by Justin Lees from the Chichester family law practice
23 March 2020 will forever remain in my mind as the first day in my career when I was required, if possible, to work from home. I had already chosen to do this when I had something urgent or complex to do but this was different as it required not just me but my whole business to do so. As you can imagine, I felt a certain amount of apprehension about this. However, Boris had exhorted me to do so and for his, the party’s and the country’s sake I wanted to do my bit.
As a career long family law solicitor helping people deal with separation, I had decided in 2008 to leave my partnership in Kent and relocate to my wife’s home county to set up my firm with the assistance of my wife who does everything for the firm bar giving legal advice. We operate from the Forum House Business Centre in Stirling Road Chichester, a stone’s throw from St John’s House, and, fortunately, the business has flourished.
However, Covid-19 posed a significant threat to it as we did not know whether or not people would still want our assistance and, even if they did, whether or not they could afford it.
So, after transporting all of our computers, stationery and files to our home, setting up our work stations in our dining room and lounge and redirecting our telephone calls, we carried on acting for our existing clients and kept our fingers crossed about new ones.
At first, our biggest challenge was our post. Despatching it was not a problem as we just did so by using our nearest post box during our brief daily exercise walk but receiving it was more difficult as logistically it was not possible to redirect it so when doing our weekly shop we would drop into Forum House to collect it. Luckily, an increasing amount of our correspondence is despatched and received by email so this has helped.
Thereafter, communicating personally with our existing and new clients posed another challenge as we would often see our clients face to face. However, this was overcome by speaking on the telephone more and using 2 video conferencing facilities, Microsoft Teams and Lifesize, as the legal profession has data protection concerns about Zoom.
The Law Society has also been very helpful and Rishi’s financial provision has been a boon for both us and our clients.
There have been advantages about working from home. As my wife and I do not have children to homeschool, we have been able to concentrate! We have also avoided having to commute. Finally, Court hearings have been held by telephone or video so I have been able to avoid attending them physically.
So not everything has been challenging and the business has survived but, personally I will not be sorry to return to the office as I still prefer the distinction between work and home.