It’s 9pm and I’ve just made a cup of tea and sat back down at my make shift desk aka my dining table which at the moment also triples up as a classroom desk for shift2. This time, it’s to write this; my insight for you, into a #dayinthelifeof an #employmentlawyer in lockdown.
Where do I even begin? Covid19 and the impact of the pandemic, not least #stayathome #workfromhome has resulted in all professions and industries having to navigate their way through what are unchartered territories. Lines of separation between work and home have been blurred since 22 March, and it seems like wearing multiple hats at all hours of the day is here to stay (at least for now). Being a lawyer, and mum to two little people (and I mean really little!) has meant learning to juggle (faster) almost overnight the already challenging responsibilities of being a #workingmum due to the demands of #homeschooling and most recently school bubble selfisolation. You will be interested to hear that I have added primary school teacher to my repertoire as well as lockdown birthday cake baker extraordinaire in the last 8 months! Anyone would think I have a thing for hats! On a serious note, Covid employment lawyering is not for the feint hearted. It’s definitely more for the rollercoaster lovers.
It won’t come as much of a surprise to you that #Covid19 has been an unexpected avalanche for #employmentlawyers, requiring adaptability, and thinking on feet with the ever changing support measures, including famous furlough (that’s what I like to call it!), and burning the midnight oil to trawl through reams of Treasury directives on the do’s and don’ts of the various schemes.
In truth, every single day of being a lawyer is different (lockdown or not), but for anyone who thinks that it’s all glamour of glass offices and meetings in board rooms with buttons to request coffee on demand (this is a ‘thing’ at the crème de la crème of magic circle firms I kid you not!), and high powered dressing and birken bags akin to #Suits or if you prefer the UK counterpart #TheFirm, hate to burst the bubble but it goes a little bit more like this……
9-5 replaced with 24/7
Whilst I have tried to ensure that my working day has stayed aligned with the status quo of 9-5, due to the nature of the pandemic and realities of family life that hasn’t really been possible. Lockdown lawyering has been a whirlwind, quite often at all hours of the day (and night) of helping a wide variety of employer and employee clients try and find a way literally overnight to manage downturn in business, requirements to restructure and make redundancies, making sense of what furlough means and how it can help, and on the other side of the fence, advising on redundancies, unfair dismissal’s and queries relating to whether a workplace is sufficiently Covid secure to return to work for employees. The pace required has been like never before, you wake up and there has been another addition to Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Guidance and your inbox is flooded (again) with enquiries, all of which need responding to immediately or a request to film a webinar or legal update. Long gone are the luxuries of old school lawyering which brought with it the delays of post and waiting weeks for a reply before action had to be taken. The 21st century and technological changes mean that lawyers are expected to reply in real time, with many of my clients opting for telephone or WhatsApp for the immediacy that they require for their urgent situation. In summary, you are on tap. They need you, you have to be available.
Adaptability has been the key to survival, boardrooms have been replaced with zoom meetings, alternatively you will find the telephone glued to my ear for the best part of 9-4 attending to client matters or attending virtual networking events, with the odd interruption from my daughter who needs me to draw her a unicorn to colour in or my son who is demanding a kinder egg for being quiet as a mouse during the monthly firm zoom meeting I have just finished (either side of the 9-4 I can be found attending to the little ones!)
The usual plethora of non Covid related enquiries have also continued,(as has the volume of coffee consumed) I regularly advise on acquisitions and provide businesses advice on TUPE (that’s a blog for another day!) or employees who have gone rogue and stolen a whole lot of confidential information and set up competing businesses where an urgent cease and desist notice needs to be served.
In-between tackling the priority list and drafting documents or attending remote court hearings, fielding the urgent things that come in unexpectedly, I am lucky to be asked to provide commentary for various radio stations on employment related matters, so when I am not busy attending on clients, I am furiously preparing for interviews and writing for publications. Once every couple of months I squeeze in a supervising solicitor role for @UniversityofHerts @HertsLawClinic and manage the marketing initiatives for the firm with my colleague @AnneStennett, all of that until I’m saved by the bell and swap hats for the school run and nursery run five days a week! Snacks in tow and a short stay to the lawyering for the day, until I log back in once the kids are asleep.
A question I get asked a lot….why employment law? For all the reasons above, it never gets boring, current and applicable to all of us in some way or another; it’s the real people’s law. As an employment lawyer I help solve problems that feel insurmountable, not only do I take on the role of someone’s counsel, negotiator, psychologist, and confidante, but I get to make a real difference whilst building a relationship with my client which enables me to guide them through to the other side whilst providing practical and commercially sensible advice .