At the beginning of 2021 we were facing lockdowns and further restrictions after Christmas got cancelled. Come the end of the year, many of us faced another diminished Christmas.
In one way, as we begin 2022, everything is the same and in every other way, it has all changed. We face all of this with the stark political reality of what Brexit actually means and the continued rise of nationalism that affects our ability to travel, to enjoy ourselves and to do the things that we really love.
It sounds rather bleak, doesn’t it? Well, in my view, in between all of this, some amazing things have happened that will change our world forever and probably for the better. How the legal world adapts to this seismic shift will be a test of leaders, partners and possibly the very model of law as we have known it – forever – both onshore and offshore.
Throughout 2021, we put the health and wellbeing of our people front and centre of what we did. A real highlight for me was the work of our health and wellbeing teams who worked tirelessly to find fun ways to bring people together. The self-appointed ‘Director of Fun’ in one of our Caribbean offices epitomised that most human of desires to get together as best we can and to look after those who we see might be struggling. Many of our people made gargantuan efforts to support, help and embrace the difficulties their colleagues faced.
This level of kindness and support also helped people to be more open with each other. It helped us to admit when things were not perfect. We have always faced our own personal difficulties but the window through which we perceived one another was too narrow. Last year we saw into people’s homes, saw their dogs, saw their bookshelves and had a glimpse into the lives that they really lead. For perfectionists to admit that things aren’t always perfect is a massive step forward – and particularly so in the world of law.
In the offshore world, each of our small jurisdictions has faced the challenges of Covid in extremely different ways and that has brought significant challenges to the way that we run our business. I also believe that it has reinforced the conviction that we lead not for ourselves, but for each and every individual who wants to follow. It is not about confronting our own realities as leaders but helping and guiding everyone to deal with the realities that they face. Putting yourselves in the shoes of those who you have not seen in person for several years, understanding their realities and pressures is really difficult. Every partner and leader must strive to achieve this on a minute by minute basis – and the pandemic has given us plenty of opportunity to practice this skill. I am convinced that the leaders of law firms will emerge as more empathetic leaders – they cannot afford not to.
At the very heart of our purpose at my firm lies a sense of selfless collaboration. This last couple of years has seen that sense of selflessness become ever more important as people have struggled with all of the challenges we have faced. The desire to reach out and help which is so fundamental to the way that we roll has been a guiding light for very many of us at the firm. Not only do partners need to continue to manage the business and provide excellent client service, they have become mentor, coaches and confidantes of the people that they work with – and this is a wonderful step forward.
So, of course we face further tough times but these tough times have helped us as a profession start to tackle the importance of mental health, admit to difficulties in both personal and professional lives and created more empathetic leaders. These challenges are no different than in the onshore world. The work is the work. The way that we do the work and why we do it is what will set us apart.
So, as we face the same repetitive messages on the news every night, let us hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that we are nearly there, knowing that when we get to the end, we will have learnt about ourselves but will also be more resilient and ready to help each other.
Jason Romer is Group Managing Partner at Collas Crill