COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the way businesses operate and consequently, businesses have had to adapt to a ‘new normal’. At Trinity Law, we specialise in four broad areas of our business consisting of Commercial and Business Law, Property Law, Commercial Litigation and Small to Medium Enterprise. While Trinity is one firm, each area requires a different approach and we have had to implement and adjust policies and procedures within each team in order to adapt to this new normal.
Each team has provided insight into what it is like to be working as a Lawyer during COVID-19 and how processes have changed. Here is what they had to say:
It’s business not-quite-as-usual during COVID-19. It is a slightly surreal time, when on the surface, many things remain the same, but at the same time enormous changes have occurred, and keep changing in our society, the economy and in the world we live in. Reconciling the two is challenging, but as a lawyer we must be resolute in our commitment to assisting our clients and our community.
We are still working, and definitely still contactable to assist people with new and existing matters. In addition to normal work, we are working hard to keep up to date with the new regulations and rules surrounding COVID-19, and the impact they might have on our clients. Processes have changed very quickly, as social distancing became overnight an accepted and necessary part of our professional life. The biggest change is the use of video conferencing software which has increased exponentially in place of face-to-face meetings and many of us look at becoming truly “agile” in operating in the new norm of a “work from home” environment. The meetings are a great way for clients to have a free environment to ask questions, and the video conferences are working well as a substitute. It is a different way of providing our advice however we have had positive feedback from the clients who we have met with already.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic we have become even more reliant on technology and online platforms with the majority of team and client meetings being conducted via telephone, Microsoft Teams or Zoom and are therefore heavily reliant on IT. As a firm the COVID-19 pandemic has only increased our already strong collegiate and team based values with all staff working collaboratively in order to continue to deliver the excellent outcomes and level of service that our clients and referrers expect. The decrease in interpersonal interactions between clients, colleagues and referrers is one of the most noticeable differences especially in the context of the local ACT commercial property fraternity which is relatively small tight knit community. Workwise, it is business as usual as we continue to strive to deliver high quality work, support and exceptional outcomes for our clients.
There have been a number of practical process changes that have impacted our firm and of particular relevance to the commercial property team has been the introduction of restrictions on attendees at the ACT Settlements Room – in practice this means that only settlement agents may attend the Settlements Room to conduct settlements in the ACT. Whilst we would generally engage a settlement agent in most cases for larger scale transactions both the banks and parties solicitors would also generally be in attendance. Our response to this has to be either to relocate major commercial settlements to an alternate safe location or to engage our settlement agent to act on our behalf whilst providing instructions and guidance by telephone. Now more than ever we are greatly appreciative of the work done by the excellent local settlement agents in the ACT.
The main process that has changed is the rate of legislative changes. The government has passed legislation with significant ramifications almost immediately. Almost in a second, the legal landscape has changed significantly. While it was an adjustment at first, being a lawyer is a role that can adapt to working remotely without too much difficulty, with the main difference being that we cannot meet face to face without clients, unless absolutely necessary. Being a lawyer is interesting during these times as the law is changing rapidly, and as lawyers it is important we stay on top of those changes. For example, debt recovery processes have been largely stayed for the time being and we are now having to think even more carefully about the nature of every proceeding, since commencing litigation processes in these times is unpredictable and subject to delay where it is not urgent.
The most obvious change is how quickly the Courts have moved as hearing cases are now conducted by telephone and video conferencing. It puts significantly more pressure on lawyers to be prepared. For example, if an important document was not filed with the Court – It is no longer the case of simply handing it up on the day – that option is not available. Filing has also changed and an electronic portal has been introduced, which already existed at the Federal level and at lower levels in other jurisdictions such as NSW. Requirements have also been eased in terms of original documents and electronic signatures. It will therefore be interesting to see whether these changes remain once physical distancing measures are relaxed.
The other main change is the sense of disconnectedness. This further underscores the need for good communication within the office or virtual office environment and the significance of the IT infrastructure. It is of critical importance to ensure that the day to day matters and issues of the firm are maintained wherever possible and ensuring people are always included meaningfully.
Covid-19 is difficult time for all members of society. Working as a lawyer during COVID-19 has not changed much – matters are similar, and there are some new issues to consider specifically brought about by COVID-19. Covid-19 has undoubtedly increased those needing assistance in these troubling times. Unfortunately for lawyers this means acting for landlord’s when their tenants cannot pay rent, property sellers/purchasers in an uncertain economy and other commercial transactions that are stressed from the general doubt, anxiety and worry that permeates though every aspect of society. This creates a difficult environment for lawyers to work in. Not only are we striving for the best outcome for our clients but we are now, more so than ever before, acting in the peripheral roles of mentors, guardians, confidants, counsellors and advisors. As the lines of what is normal are blurred in society generally, so too is the role of the lawyer. Having said this, the situation does offer lawyers a chance to redeem an often poor reputation with the general public, and an opportunity to focus on providing not only sound legal advice but a holistic service targeted at catering to every aspect of their client’s wellbeing.
Communication is the biggest change, particularly with team members. General communication that may have taken place at the edge of a desk or office door has now moved online. It used to be so easy to walk to a team members area for a chat about a matter, which kept the communication lines open however now communication is on a needed basis, and is much more structured. This has the ill effect of often leading to miscommunication as body language is now a thing of the past. Processes are not only online but now also in place and written down for things that may have just been understood as the way something was done. How have processes changed? They are no longer word of mouth but enshrined in documents and procedures. What was once a simple task of going to the scanner or printer is no longer the case.
For specific advice during COVID-19, please contact Trinity Law on (02) 6163 5050 or email your query email@example.com
The information in this document represents general information, and should not be relied for your specific circumstances. If you require legal advice and assistance on the matters contained or associated in this document you should contact Trinity Law. Subject to the limits of the law, Trinity Law disclaims any liability on persons relying on this document.