Lawyers at Hudgell Solicitors say a successful transition to remote working has led to a better home and work life balance, greater efficiencies in processes and more direct communication with clients.
In the six weeks since the country was placed into lockdown in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, teams across four UK offices have adapted to a new way of working and found it has brought new benefits for both themselves and their clients.
Increased contact through an increase in phone calls to clients, short and focussed video team meetings and flexible working hours have been cited as positives taken from challenging times.
It comes as managing director Neil Hudgell has already stated that he is prepared to embrace a more flexible work model moving forward, with less people based at the firm’s city centre offices in Hull, London, Leeds and Manchester five days a week.
Just this week he announced that that he is open to recruiting new team members willing to work mainly from home.
Mr Hudgell has talked about establishing ‘mini-franchise models’ with single fee-earners across the country whereby an agreement would see Hudgells provide all the technological and managerial support they need to run caseloads remotely.
Clinical negligence specialist feels ‘more productive at home’
Members of Hudgells’ legal team, who represent clients in compensation cases relating to personal injury, clinical negligence, civil liberties, travel, criminal injury and abuse, have spoken about the benefits they have found to home working.
Although she admits to missing the ‘chitter chatter’ between her colleagues when working at the firm’s London office in Fleet Street, experienced clinical negligence solicitor Josie Robinson feels she is presently being more productive.
“It suits my lifestyle to work from home and I find I am more productive,” she says.
“As solicitors we tend to work very individually on our own cases and I find I am much more productive at times at home as it’s just myself and my husband, who is an engineer. I don’t have the distraction of the busy office.
“One of the highlights of remote working has been how it has forced better communication and smarter ways of working across the firm. We are sending less letters to clients and doing more by email, and importantly we are picking up the phone more and speaking to people directly.
“Our IT team have been fantastic as we are set up at home to conduct telephone conferences with counsel and experts and we are able to give clients the option of video calls instead of face to face meetings.
“I also still feel connected to colleagues as we use platforms such as the intranet and Microsoft Teams to communicate with other members of our departments and senior managers when some guidance is required.
“The legal sector has also adapted as a whole. There were delays in the first few weeks but people are much more available now. We are now able to organise telephone conferences at short notice and things are now moving and fast.”
Mrs Robinson previously worked from home when running her own practice before joining Hudgells in 2017. She says working from home bring many lifestyle benefits and that the key is having a routine which suits.
“Personally I get two hours of my day back by not travelling to and from the office. When I am working from our office I leave my house at 7am and arrive home after 7pm, and I am one of the lucky ones as I live central London.”
“It takes time to get into a routine and you need to be well disciplined, but once you get in a routine working from home has so many benefits,” she says.
“In a morning I have time to go for a jog and even a game of tennis, the two hours a day I save on travel I spend on exercise and sleep and this is extremely important for work-life balance.”
Dedicated, in-house IT specialists ensure complete support provided to lawyers
Solicitor Leanne Stephenson, who usually works from the firm’s Hull headquarters, says the support of an in-house IT team has made the transition smooth, whilst all have also adapted to using video calls and messenger platforms.
“We’re lucky at Hudgells because we have the IT support in place to be able to work remotely and not see any impact, which has meant there has been no disruption for our clients. I think they have been genuinely surprised at how our service levels have remained constant,” she said.
“Communication is key to working remotely and we all have access to Microsoft Teams and instant messenger services so we do have instant dialogue between one another.
“One of the big benefits is the flexibility of your working day, as we’re not expected to work a strict 9am-5.30pm, as long as work is done. The structure of the day is more or less up to you and this can have advantages if you need to contact clients out of normal working hours.
“For remote working to be a success there has to be trust, but this is something which has been available to us for some time at Hudgells so this has been an extension of it across the business.”
Extra time with young family has been a benefit
Catastrophic injuries claims specialist Sam McFayden balances his work with a busy family life, with two young daughters currently adapting to the fact that dad is actually at work, even when he is still at home.
“I am grateful to be afforded the flexibility to be at home in the morning to have breakfast with the kids, and be home early evening to unwind before reading bed time stories and tucking them into bed, which I didn’t get to do when having to commute into the office,” he said.
“I have never been so busy workwise though, which reflects how we have adapted and continued.
“Clients are generally impressed that we are progressing where we can and are extremely grateful that we are still there for them.
“Face to Face meetings are obviously not taking place with clients but we are on the other end of the phone and we can also conduct meetings via video, so our clients certainly have options.
“Our rehab providers are in also touch regularly and continue to provide support to our clients via video calls or support by telephone. It’s business as usual and we are signposting at every opportunity, doing everything remotely where possible.
“It’s really important to us that our clients still feel supported and connected during these challenging times, and we are proud to say that has been the case.”