A household lawyer in a lockdown: Sarah Jane Lenihan, Accomplice at the Stowe Family Law office in London Victoria on the truth of working as a household lawyer in lockdown…

Busy!  It really has not stopped!  I’ve envied family and friends who posted on social media of their newest hobbies – whether or not that is baking, lengthy walks, yoga or watercolours as I really feel all I’ve accomplished is figure.  

After we had been first instructed that the workplaces could be closing what first struck me was sheer panic.  I puzzled how I’d probably run my busy caseload and cope with the 9 hearings I had within the diary over the subsequent 6 weeks from house. 

Fortunately in January 2019 on the Stowe Household Regulation workplace in London Victoria, we determined to be as paper-free as potential.  Being 100% paper-free in household regulation is rarely an choice as a consequence of authentic courtroom orders and signed paperwork. Nonetheless, I made a decision to cease printing every little thing, corresponded the place potential by e-mail and ensured that each piece of paper was scanned onto our case administration system.  We reached the stage the place we may describe ourselves as ‘paper-light’.  

Trying again I’m SO grateful we did as despite the fact that I discovered the preliminary transition worrying I can not think about how I’d have coped if I had not been working this fashion for the final 15 months!  How would I’ve probably received 30 odd case information house?

My first job upon the announcement of our workplace closure was to get the courtroom bundles prepared for the hearings. Fortunately I’ve an incredible PA who stayed late with me for a few days to verify they had been all ready, scanned into the system and onerous copies despatched to the courtroom for all 9 hearings.

This meant I left the workplace with my laptop computer, cellular and the somewhat optimistic thought that we had in all probability overprepared as we’d be again in a few weeks however not less than we’d not be dashing round as soon as again to prepare for the hearings.  Oh, how unsuitable I used to be, four months later and nonetheless no plans for our workplaces to open.

Working from house

The primary couple of days of being a household lawyer in a lockdown felt like a little bit of a novelty, having the ability to stand up at eight am somewhat than 6 am to train and be at my desk at 9 am with none combat for a seat or paying for overpriced espresso.  

Having a do-it-yourself lunch and even beginning dinner at an inexpensive hour and searching ahead to cooking one thing nutritious.  All through the day and night, there have been a number of Zoom calls with colleagues, purchasers and households to be in contact, perhaps I may get used to this, I believed.  

Effectively, that didn’t final for lengthy. With everybody desirous to Zoom all day on daily basis it meant I used to be usually working late to really get work accomplished.  Court docket hearings had been being adjourned at brief discover with no signal of once they had been being put within the diary. This meant a number of phone calls with purchasers to attempt to help them via this troublesome time and for as soon as not having the solutions as to their questions comparable to when will it’s relisted…

Then everybody received bored of Zoom and the Court docket received used to distant hearings.  I even had purchasers worrying about potential adjournments (I prewarned everybody this would possibly occur at brief discover) reaching agreements to keep away from additional delay and litigation.  

I discovered solicitors who had beforehand been very troublesome changing into softer and friendlier and regardless of the harm that the terrible virus was doing to people well being and funds the world appeared a kinder place.

The change as lockdown began to carry

Then as lockdown began to be lifted the enquiries got here pouring in. Spending an excessive amount of time collectively, unwell well being, lack of jobs and monetary worries appeared to be the principle areas of dispute.  To not point out the arguments over kids being moved from family to family and who they had been permitting the kid to socialize with.  

Everybody appeared to be extra irritable, much less affected person and wanting every little thing accomplished now.  I needed to take a step again and actually maintain calm as fairly simply this case may have change into too overwhelming to deal with.  

I spent plenty of my time (as we do as household solicitors) emotionally supporting my purchasers, asking them to not make any rash choices and to take a while to actually take into consideration how they needed to proceed, what consequence they needed to realize and the way we finest get there.  Feelings had been definitely working excessive. 

At Stowe Household Regulation we’re fortunate to have wonderful relationships with a number of different professionals that we will put our consumer’s in touch with to verify they get hold of the suitable help once they want it and permit us to concentrate on what we do finest, the authorized recommendation.

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The brand new ‘regular’

So the place are we now? As a household lawyer in a lockdown?: Nonetheless very busy, however a lot extra used to it, nonetheless working more durable than I ever have earlier than however really feel like myself and the crew round me are in a great routine and extra in command of this case.  

Hearings are being adjourned much less, we have now received to grips with e-bundling and reviewing paperwork on-line and comfy with video conferencing.  The suggestions I’ve acquired from my purchasers is that they desire having the ability to bounce onto a video name with me to work via a proposal or to debate a troublesome topic somewhat than having to take outing of their busy working day to journey to the workplace.  

Not having to bodily attend courtroom is extra time and cost-effective for everybody too as I can go out and in of a listening to. Usually while a Choose is contemplating their judgement I work while the consumer can get one thing to eat and make a espresso somewhat than being caught in a courtroom convention room. 

On the entire, I’ve felt that the video hearings have been a hit and allowed instances to progress immediately which is so useful for everybody notably when there are kids concerned.  

Two of my happiest moments have been reaching two closing personal adoption orders for purchasers who had been ready a very long time to finish their household unit.  

I’ve discovered that after agreements have been reached and proceedings concluded that the tensions can lower and permit purchasers to maneuver on with their lives. That is such a rewarding feeling particularly when I’ve been an important half in reaching the result they hoped for throughout our preliminary assembly many months earlier than.

All through lockdown, I’m so grateful to have my well being and a job I really like. I’ve heard some actually unhappy tales and supported some people throughout some very troublesome instances together with being caught inside in abusive relationships which has been heart-breaking.  

My hope is that after this pandemic is over and a few type of normality resumes that the kindness I’ve witnessed continues into our new world as that’s the one factor that may make life rather less worrying for everybody.