18 May 2021 | Comment | Article by Cari Sowden-Taylor

ABI week 2021: Reflecting on living & working during a pandemic

During Headway’s ABI week: ‘A life of lockdown’ the Hugh James Neurolaw department reflect on living and working during a pandemic.

Along with the rest of the world, law firms have adapted to remote working and virtual meetings. Whilst no replacement for face-to-face meetings with clients, there have been some unexpected advantages to the conversion. A quick email from a client can result in a Microsoft Teams call 10 minutes later without the requirement to travel or arrange a venue.  

“Witness statements are a good example. Previously if we couldn’t speak face to face, we would take it over the phone, but you get a lot more out of the discussion when it is via video call” – Ellice Harding, Solicitor.

“I have developed great working relationships with work associates in the Hugh James Independent Financial Advisory Teams and external banks. I managed to attend a virtual cheese and wine hosted by Chase De Vere which was amazing” – Nicola Sinclair, Accounts Co-ordinator.

And convenience is not the sole advantage. There has emerged a real sense of camaraderie as everybody in the world adapts to new ways of communicating together. 

“Our clients have all either suffered brain or spinal cord injuries, and they have all been through an extremely traumatic time. In the beginning of lockdown things were ever changing, and there were a number of logistical difficulties, such as signing documents, that we needed to overcome. Our clients and other businesses really have been so understanding as we have navigated our way through this new situation.” – Laura Bailey, Associate

“I think in some ways the fact that we have been ever present during lockdown, have been accessible and have ensured clients have been contacted and even if necessary, gone out of our way to arrange safe distanced contact as restrictions have altered, has helped to cement and improve relationships” - Partner.

We look forward to engaging with clients in person again once restrictions ease. However, it is refreshing to have an alternative option for the times when a face-to-face meeting is not feasible. 

The positive changes also extend to personal life. The sudden absence of social events has allowed individuals the additional time to challenge themselves or revisit old hobbies. Our Lyndsey Walsh has taken up Welsh and the tin whistle, whilst Angharad Phillips has started running and completed the ‘Couch to 5k’ challenge.

Furthermore, restrictions surrounding non-essential travel and visits means individuals can spend more time focusing on matters closer to home. The team were asked to comment on their positives of lockdown:

“Dinner with family most nights and regular doses of Nintendo Mario Kart with my daughter!” – Ciaran McCabe, Partner.

“Exploring the local area and the beautiful park and the subsequent wildlife that live within it and seeing the season changes that are on my doorstep, which I didn’t really make time to do before” – Specialist Support Services Manager

“Being able to witness my child’s first steps which inevitably would have been missed if I were in the office” - Associate.

Many individuals have channelled their additional time towards fundraisers and charity events. The Neurolaw Department has always enjoyed fundraising for the charities we work with, however once the lockdown was announced this offered a vital opportunity to connect with and support individuals that have suffered catastrophic brain and spinal injuries and their families at a time when it was so easy to feel isolated.  

“I’m doing more exercise than I did before the pandemic. Given that gyms have been closed a lot during the last year, I’ve been running more than normal and last year took part in a challenge with friends from work which involved us running 2800km as a team of 7. Our aim was to raise money for Horatio’s Garden, a charity creating and naturing beautiful gardens in NHS spinal centres, and we were delighted to raise over £2000 for the charity which is going towards the new garden at the Welsh Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Centre at Llandough Hospital which is soon to open” – Cari Sowden-Taylor, Partner.

Amongst the Horatio’s Garden running challenge, the Neurolaw Department also participated in raising awareness through ‘Hats for Headway’ and the Child Injury Brain Trust’s ‘Glo Week’. Currently members of the team are participating in the Silver Lining Brain Injury Charity’s ‘Sunshine Calls’, providing support and company to service users.

Finally, the team were asked if you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice in March 2020, what would it be?

“Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. For me, because my family are in England, I have had very little support over the last year due to the various differing restrictions and different points. When other people could start leaning on parents/siblings for help with childcare I wasn’t able to, but as a result I did start asking my neighbours and local friends for help when needed (within the rules!) and they were fab. As a result I now have a stronger support network in Cardiff. “ – Charlotte Fletcher, Associate.

“Don’t underestimate the mental impact of lockdown. Some days are tougher than others and celebrating small wins or achievements is important” – Carys Lewis, Trainee Solicitor.

“Life can change in a heartbeat, make the most of every day.” – Ffione Davies, Paralegal.

Lockdown has been challenging in an insurmountable number of ways. However, it has also improved our relationships, communication and IT skills. Many of the adaptations in our working lives will inevitably continue after restrictions ease. The challenges we have faced and overcome during the lockdown will remain with us, as will the incredible support from our colleagues, clients and businesses that we work with. 

“I have been extremely impressed with the resilience of my colleagues and the support they have all provided one another during an extremely challenging year” – Cari Sowden-Taylor, Partner.

“It has been a challenging year to say the least, something I never expected in my life, but we have risen to the challenge and continued to help our clients in the strangest of times” – Ciaran McCabe, Partner.

 

Blog written by Trainee Solicitor in the Neurolaw Team, Anu Manda.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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