Along with many of my colleagues at Ison Harrison, I began my work from home in March this year and several weeks on I remain working from home. It seems like this new way of working is here to stay for the foreseeable future, at least in some form or another.
I really wasn’t sure how home working would suit me. I enjoy the time I spend with my colleagues in the office. I enjoy getting out around the communities of the branch offices where I carry out my work of Otley, Ilkley and Guiseley. I am a family law solicitor. I chose my profession for a reason, it is so very ‘human’ and I have always felt privileged to assist my clients through a difficult time in their lives. I love my work, so how would working from home play out?
Surprisingly, working from home has been pretty much fine. I do miss the things I thought I would miss, face-to-face contacts with colleagues and clients, and our enterprising Wharfedale towns. I have a yearning for normality to resume, but so does the rest of the nation. One day it will, but for now this is an adjustment in life, and acceptance seems to be the easiest way to navigate through our changed requirements.
My family law work involves me dealing with all kinds of issues and concerns, from divorce and related financial settlements, to child arrangement disputes and domestic abuse remedy work. The variety of my cases keeps me going, and ensuring my family law practice is varied, has always meant I am well equipped to deal with any enquiry that comes into the firm.
A welcome element of this situation is that as far as the operation of family law is concerned, there is really no change, and it is very much ‘business as usual’. We have found ways to keep going. The clients have kept going. Other party solicitors have kept going. In substantial part, the court has kept going. The clogs have kept turning and efficiency has not taken a hit.
Therefore when I sit at home preparing my work plan for each day, I know that my days will be as fulfilling as they always have been. I will be busy. I will be progressing my cases within their usual timeframes. Our service levels will remain high. And, above all, I will have been able to assist my clients in their difficult times, just as if we were operating in standard zones. This for me is the most welcome surprise in what I thought family solicitors might have faced back in March.
Right now I am working in a room at home which in pre-Covid times I used to call my ‘make up’ room. It sounds more glamorous than it is, and contrary to popular opinion, I certainly never employed a make-up artist to attend my home each morning and prepare me for the day ahead. I am however flattered that my colleagues thought I was looking so glamorous for all those years. Perhaps they never did, and this is just my rosey interpretation of things (no blusher pun intended).
Anyway the ‘make up’ room has become a regular old office, just with a big bad mirror in it which stares back at me when I frown in it after dropping the calculator onto my foot again, ouch! I know that for my colleagues it will be a burning question at this point, and so to answer it now and get it out of the way, YES, I do still put my make-up on every single morning, and YES, I do get myself office smart as I still climb into my work attire each day. One has to maintain standards, we are a law firm after all. This solicitor will not be found doing her telephone and video call court hearings whilst wearing her pyjama bottoms, no thank you!
The other point to raise about working from home life for me is the need to ensure the welfare and home educational needs of my two young sons are met. This is extremely tricky as any parent doing the same will I am sure vouch for. I feel like I am a pretty good home lawyer now, but a pretty poor home teacher. My ofsted rating would almost certainly be ‘requires improvement’ or ‘RI’ as I understand the lingo to be. Some days I think I have hit the depths of ‘special measures’. In short, the absolute pits of the pits. I have the excuse that I am not trained for this of course, but I did not realise just how much constant effort and commitment our wonderful schools put into raising our children in their educations. I cannot thank them enough. Although I’m not sure quite how welcome an endorsement would be from a home educator in ‘RI’ (optimistically).
In returning to family law, my forte (thank goodness), I am suitably encouraged by how well we have adjusted to home working. I am dealing with a mixture of existing and new clients. Meetings can still take place, albeit over the telephone or via video call for now. If therefore you are thinking of starting a family case, there is no need to hold off due to thoughts that we wouldn’t be operating, and it will be best to get in touch after the pandemic passes. We’re here when you need us. Your new start in life can begin today!
Sarah can be contacted on 01943 889 7107.
Sarah is a Private Family Solicitor based at our Ilkley branch.