Traditionally, the blog post we put out just before the Easter holidays wishes everyone a happy Easter, tells them to go and enjoy some precious family time and tells people not to eat too much chocolate. This year, all of that seems a bit odd. Although we do wish you a very happy Easter, we hope you get to talk to family and friends and that you get to eat as much chocolate as you can get in your trolley as part of your essential food needs. Most of all we hope you all stay safe and we thank from the bottom of our heart all of the key workers who are working so hard and risking their own safety to keep us all safe and to ensure we can fight the virus. We hope, that by staying at home, we are all helping to prevent the spread of this terrible virus and thereby save lives and we offer our deepest sympathies to anyone who has suffered a loss.
Whilst this is probably the most important Easter holiday message we have ever sent out, it would also be our shortest blog and so we thought we would give you a taste of Jacksons in lockdown!
I think as a law firm we have been lucky in preparing for lockdown in that we not have a fairly sophisticated IT system with emails in the cloud, an online case management system and digital telephone and dictation systems, but we have great local IT support. There is no question that our transition from office to home would not have gone so smoothly without the support of Cornerstone Business Solutions and Reefstream. Consequently, we have managed to move all of our teams out of the office and they are still receiving emails and phone calls.
The old routines of picking up your post, catching up with team members in the kitchen and attending lots and lots of meetings might have gone, but we have put in place new routines. All team leaders are speaking to their teams every morning to check how they are doing, we have Microsoft Teams to enable us to chat and exchange some banter away from the office email system, a lunchtime challenge by way of quiz or activity and a daily bulletin to all to keep the flow of communication which is the life blood of a firm like ours. It is such a relief to see the humour bouncing around as it would in the office. There was a sense of normality when we held the office sweepstake this weekend for the Virtual Grand National with proceeds to an NHS charity.
Behind all of this communication we have needed to set up a clear and simple management structure to handle day to day decisions and provide staff with clear direction. The 4 pm video calls by a small management group have taken the lead on this dealing with IT, scanning post, access to the office where absolutely necessary and in compliance with government guidelines etc. We are now moving on to virtual management meetings with a small partners meeting for this week and our usual management meeting next. Unlike the cabinet, we wont be risking zoom so don’t try and gate crash. We don’t want anyone hearing us debate who has the best refreshments and what the answer to question four in yesterdays quiz was.
In amongst all of this, as a law firm, we do need to look after our clients. We have been in touch with lots of them and are busy completing their leases, running their court hearings by skype, writing their wills and talking to them about terms and conditions of the contracts they have, their employment concerns and the family matters they want to discuss. I would be lying if I said we were as busy as ever – we are not, but there is legal work to be done and we are doing it. We have even had a few new residential property instructions.
I am not in any way saying it is business as usual for us and our clients. We have sadly had to furlough some of our staff and depending on how long the lock down lasts, may have to furlough more. This is not something we are happy about but we will do everything we can to protect jobs for the long term. What we are saying though is that if you had told us a couple of months ago we would all be working from home, our switchboard would be ringing in someone’s house, our dictation would be typed by people who are also home schooling their children and that the court buildings would close, but we would still be holding hearings with judges in London debating skype and dropbox then we would probably have raised more than one eyebrow but that is what has happened.
What we can also say is that when this ends, and it will, we will have learnt a lot about our business, the people in it and the needs of the clients we service. We know now that a well- managed cashflow is not just a good idea it is essential, that excellent IT is crucial and that there is nothing better than the support of local suppliers. Most of all though we know we have a great team and that, set them a challenge and they rise to it with a desire to look after our clients to the best of their ability and to do an excellent job and of that we are very proud. And as we go into a four day Bank holiday weekend, I guess we know that going to work is actually good and that sometime soon it will be a real treat to get up on a Monday morning to go to the office, to greet colleagues in person, to meet with clients and to host and attend events and who would have seen that so clearly a few weeks ago.
So this Easter please stay at home and stay safe and we look forward to meeting you all again soon.
Jane Armitage, Managing Partner