Having worked in property for over 10 years, I can safely say I have never experienced the relentless pressure I have seen over the past few months, during the SDLT holiday period.
I was working from home for most of the time, which meant an early start of typically 7.15am to get started before the phone started ringing at 9.00am, which would continue throughout the day. I would normally not finish before 9.00pm and, even then, I still had a lot of tasks to complete for my clients which made it very difficult to leave my desk.
I was covering a caseload of about 60 files for a colleague throughout June. This might not sound a lot compared to some of the stories I have heard, but despite a full-time assistant, the nature of our clients made this very demanding. Most are well educated and had a good understanding of the process, which, in theory, should have made things easier. It actually made it more difficult as their questions were often a lot more indepth and challenging.
I would typically receive about 200 emails a day which did not include those from clients. We have a client portal from which they can send in messages, which was normally about 50 per day.
My experience with other solicitors was one of two extremes. On the one hand, I have never experienced such camaradie from the majority which was lovely to see. However, when dealing with smaller, typically more traditional firms, I did experience a lot of frustration - often taken out on us.
I think it’s always important to take something positive from any experience, and the three key things I’ve learned are:
Firstly, when working under such huge pressure, technology makes a huge difference. I really don’t know what I would have done if we had not been paperless with a brilliant case management system.
Secondly, the importance of a supportive organisation is absolutely vital – having two highly efficient completions and finance teams makes a huge difference.
Finally, I’ve learned that I no longer have to worry about simultaneous exchange and completions in a chain! They are not to be feared!
Looking back on the whole SDLT holiday period, I have to say that the high point of the whole experience was Wednesday 30th June at 5.30pm.
Kate Atkinson is director and head of legal practice at The Partnership