How are you managing your work life balance?
Is this a serious question?
Work/Life? It’s more like work/work!
Fortunately, for MRN we have had a steady stream of work and have been privileged to assist clients with securing their costs in this uncertain period of time.
For me, it is about time management. I try to give myself enough time to get things done and try not to overschedule myself. People say, you need to learn to say “no.” but that’s not what we really hear at MRN!
And then it’s about detaching from work. Working from home I’m frequently using technology to connect to work when I’m at home – Microsoft Teams, Zoom etc and this can often cause you to feel like you’re always on the job. I think it’s about finding a quiet dedicated workspace and if possible and when I’m done, I’ll detach and transition to home life. This doesn’t take long for me. I’ll either get summoned or ordered (depending on the general mood at home) to the dining room to feed the kids, do the homework, start showers, pyjamas and the list goes on….
Then occasionally, there’s the sneak peek at emails at 11pm!
What’s your work from home set up like?
So I’m lucky, there’s a spare room in the loft and I lock myself up and If kids come up to visit, the answers are as follows:
- Piece of fruit
- Unless you are bleeding, its fine
- Ask mum!
Firms are a lot more tech savvy and fortunately we have the IT systems in place to import the work electronically to minimise any disruption. We also have dedicated couriers up and down the country who collect any work should the client prefer to send their papers in hard copy.
What was MRN’s response to working from home and what have they been doing to keep up the morale of the team over the last few months?
So, a bit like Boris, at the beginning, come to the office, don’t come to the office, get out of the office immediately starting from next week!
In terms of virtual events, it started with Kahoot, online bingo but then it progressed to private magician, gin tasting and cocktails and even surprise deliveries to our doorsteps (I don’t mean another file). We’ve been looked after!
Have you learnt anything new about yourself since the start of Covid?
I learned that if something is important, do it now. We all had so many plans and events that we couldn’t have fathomed being cancelled when 2020 began. This year has taught me that if something is important, do it now. Today. Because tomorrow there is no guarantee that the opportunity will still be there.
How have you found communication with clients?
Communication has not really changed for me. My preferred mode of contact is the phone. There’s nothing like a good chat to get to know your client, to appreciate the instruction or guidance they are seeking and ultimately to best advise them. Is that not what Bob Hoskins said ‘It’s good to talk’?
Have you experienced difficulties with the Courts?
The Courts on the whole have in my view performed excellently and are clearly trying very hard to transition to remote hearings. They are adapting quickly to keep the wheels of justice turning.
In terms of legislation, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee have published two new Practice Directions, 51Y and 51ZA which amend the CPR with the aim of providing greater flexibility in English Court proceedings. New protocols have also been published by the different specialist courts, including the Business and Property Courts and the Queen’s Bench Division, under whose authority most commercial disputes fall.
In my advocacy experience, with the Courts employing the use of Business Skype and Microsoft Teams, there really is not much difference than in person and it is working really well. In relation to telephone hearings which the majority of the County Courts are using, for the most part, this too has been a positive experience, however when you have a muffled line with one party not being able to join the call and a judge with a strong Welsh accent, then you reminisce of the days in person at Court.
Given the slowdown in the economy, have you managed to keep yourself busy?
Fortunately, MRN have grown in the last 10 or so years exponentially and are adept at providing quality work balanced with working to tight deadlines. We work hard at honing in on our technical skills coupled with providing down to earth practical advice. Thankfully this approach has kept us in good stead despite the pandemic.
Are you noticing any new trends in litigation emerging as a result of Covid?
Litigation is certainly changing as a result of COVID.
New claims can be issued electronically and are still being processed quickly and efficiently. Where a claim is already in proceedings, the parties can benefit from more flexibility to agree to extend deadlines. (That said, if an extension requires approval from the Court, the judge will be expected take into account the limitations by Covid-19 restrictions and parties can expect to be granted only the minimum extension possible). Increased use is being made of remote telephone and video hearings, and the logistics of remote hearings must be considered as far ahead as possible. Before ordering a remote hearing, litigants can expect the Court to consider rigorously whether the dispute can be fairly resolved by a remote hearing, but it appears that there will not be a bias in favour of postponing hearings until they can be held live. New technology can be expected to be used to make remote hearings run as smoothly as possible, including increased use of e-bundles.
Practically, we are also seeing an increase in remote Joint Settlement Meetings and Mediations being taking place with successful outcomes in a number of cases.
Perhaps a more profound question is, will Covid-19 instigate increased litigation when we finally emerge from the pandemic? What will the clinical negligence, the breach of contract, the debt litigation landscape look like?