I feel fortunate as a solicitor to be part of a firm during this pandemic. Whilst as a Partner I am self-employed, I have the financial security of the rest of the firm behind me and the support of being part of a team; in fact, a number of interacting teams. I am not suggesting that being in a firm offers full protection from the effect of the pandemic for everyone– I know it does not - but I think it offers some.
Working remotely has highlighted the positives of office life and team working that I perhaps did not fully appreciate in easier times. There are the practicalities, such as the infrastructure, procedures and hands on support staff, which are now less easy to access, but I have felt most strongly the loss of ‘community’ and working together. Whilst working remotely the exchange of thoughts, ideas and advice is not as easy. I miss overhearing (and interrupting) colleagues conversations, through which I learnt not only more about the law, cases and my job, but also more about the people I worked with and about life in general, most importantly what is best to binge watch on Netflix. Communication has to be more planned and is more distant and it loses something as a result. It is, for example, much harder to rant. I have not felt able to email my colleagues to ask to arrange a zoom call so I can share how frustrating my opponent* (*boss/colleague/counsel – delete as applicable) is being.
Having said that, it seems to me that most people have generally been more patient, understanding andwilling to work together. In my field of clinical negligence as a solicitor you represent either claimants or defendants, not both, which can mean it is sometimes difficult to understand each other’s point of view. Working under lockdown has given us a common experience which I think has helped us to work together better – long may that continue for the benefit of the injured clients I work for.
What I also hope the pandemic will do is encourage a more realistic, understanding attitude of the work I do and why people pursue claims in medical negligence. Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus people’s complicated relationship with and feelings about the NHS. Talking about medical negligence claims, whilst everyone is applauding NHS staff, requires sensitivity. We have all admired and been humbled by the dedication, sacrifice and selflessness of many NHS workers but at the same time I hope people can understand why, despite that, if you have suffered serious injury and trauma and your life has been changed forever as a result may want and/or need redress. I hope people will be less judgmental of those who become my clients and recognise that an organisation like the NHS can be a lot of different things to different people – it is not perfect or terrible, it is somewhere in between.
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