Post-Covid Column – Simon Davies, Director of Pepperells

How many times during the current crisis have you heard the phrase “I cannot wait for things to get back to normal?” This phrase has been repeated both in the social context and widely in the workplace. Many employees and for that matter employers have a settled way of working and any major disruption to that way of doing things is often considered unnecessary upheaval.

Everybody is now accepting that things will not fully return to the “old normal” but that instead we will settle upon a “new normal”.  I am pleased to say that at Pepperells we have been able to function exceptionally well during the lockdown. Most if not all of our solicitors worked using a variety of mobile devices which enabled them to work not just at their office desk but at various different locations as demanded by the job.

There is also a huge benefit to our staff of home working. They save time and money on travelling to the office. They can easily walk the dog at lunchtime! Further increased flexibility may be achieved in the relaxing of the strict “office hours” of work for some.

It was therefore relatively easy for our solicitors and support staff to simply continue their job using their mobile devices but from home rather than the office. Our IT systems were such that every aspect of the modern-day job of a solicitor could be facilitated remotely from home.

We have been able to seamlessly conduct new and existing client appointments through a whole variety of means (we prefer using Teams to Zoom but can facilitate both) and we have been able to effectively involve ourselves in court and tribunal hearings remotely.

Conversations are now taking place in various courts and tribunals up and down the country to settle on what is likely to be the permanent new way of conducting certain, if not all, hearings. We may find that COVID-19 has at least forced upon the courts and its users a new way of working which will save the previously wasted travelling time of numerous parties and therefore save the justice system money. This is already allowing solicitors much more time in front of their computers preparing cases which would otherwise have been spent travelling to and from courts and waiting for their case to start.

Pepperells understand that their clients have varying needs. Some clients would much prefer not to travel to our offices but to conduct a meeting remotely by the use of IT. Other clients still require personal attendance. On that basis, we have promptly re-opened our doors to the public with the use of skeleton staff. Individual solicitors can therefore have the flexibility of arranging with clients to attend their officers to meet them on days which most suit both parties.

There are still plenty of issues to be addressed. There is still a requirement for example for new civil cases to be issued at court with hard paperwork rather than via email. The courts still have to fully embraced the use of various IT benefits such as digital signatures. We are slowly but surely getting there though.

Ultimately, the structure of work in the future may be different on an individual basis with some largely office based whereas others rarely pass the threshold.

Here’s to the new normal!