As the government releases information regarding the easing of lockdown and steps are taken to enable some return to normality, Sinclair Gibson has had to consider what the future looks like for us and whether there is, in fact, a brave new world for us in terms of our working practises.
We have always prided ourselves on the personalised service we offer to clients and have built the firm’s ethos around tailoring our approach to each and every client to ensure that they are getting the expertise their matter requires. We deliver effective solutions to a myriad of issues and one of the biggest draws we as a firm have is the ability to involve experts from different practice areas by calling on colleagues and partners from other teams at short notice. In practical terms, this is simply a trip to a different office or floor to ‘pick someone’s brain’ and ask their opinion on a matter, often informally which is cost effective for clients but also ensures cross departmental training for our fee earners helping to create well-rounded solicitors with knowledge of practice areas other than their own specialities. This has been more difficult when everyone is working remotely simply because the temptation is to ‘just get on with it’ when working on a matter rather than picking up the phone and imposing yourself on another fee earner for any length of time. Luckily we are well set up in terms of our technological infrastructure which means that we have been able to continue to work in a collaborative manner, but there is no doubting that it has been harder.
The enforced working from home has not been all bad and there are some lessons learned from the new practises that we have had to adopt. For example, we are not a paper free firm, but have now had no access to paper files for upwards of three months (though we have of course had access to electronic files). We have for years spoken about introducing a ‘paper light initiative’ and encouraging fee earners away from paper files but have not really bitten the bullet and implemented one. Given that we have now had no access for some time, and that staff and partners have had to become more familiar with tools which enable on screen building and signing of documents such as adobe, there is no excuse for going backwards in terms of the use of technology.
Similarly, we have been forced to embrace programmes which allow online meetings such Skype and Microsoft Teams to facilitate meetings taking place while working from home. We have previously had access to these programmes but really only touched the surface in terms of the features used on a daily basis. While these programmes cannot replace face to face meetings for human interaction and productivity, they do provide an efficient pathway to an alternative solution if a meeting is not possible, needs to be arranged at short notice or if logistics are an issue.
What is clear to us is that there are some practises which we have been forced to adopt which will remain because they make us more efficient as a firm and this, ultimately, benefits our clients. However, the most important thing to everyone at Sinclair Gibson is the client interaction and working with them in the most effective manner, ensuring that we can continue to offer a personalised and valuable service. Our intention is therefore to return to office based working in the long term, though appropriate social distancing measures and COVID-19 precautions have been implemented in the short to medium term. While we are still very much working from home at the moment, in line with government recommendations, we look forward to welcoming all of our clients through our doors again in the not too distant future.