It has been interesting reading in the Gazette (‘Lawyers in lockdown’) about the profession’s experiences of remote working. On the whole, it appears that the transition has gone pretty well, with people adjusting to a new routine.
However, there are challenges, such as supervising and mentoring more junior lawyers. One lawyer whom I work closely with is Chloe Gill, an associate in our corporate team in London.
From the first week of lockdown, we set up a daily team call for 11am each day. Chloe is usually able to join this call. We kick off with some small talk to find out how everyone is and what they have been up to. We appreciate the strains which all colleagues are under – for example, some live alone with their family abroad, while others have partners who are also working and between them they are juggling childcare.
Sometimes, Chloe and I will speak later on in the day too. However, for all of us, remote working is a learning experience, and we can always do better. One thing which I would like to implement is a one-to-one weekly catch-up with Chloe in addition to the team calls.
While we are getting more comfortable using video technology for our calls, and the functionality that comes with it, such as being able to post comments and share documents for review, what is more difficult is picking up on non-verbal cues and people’s body language. Virtual communication can be more difficult. As managers, we need to be sensitive to this, and make sure that we listen as well as we can and ask open questions. We may also need to flex our management style – some more junior colleagues will require a more structured working environment, with more regular catch-ups, while others won’t.
We need to gauge what works best individual by individual. Of course, Chloe and I no longer have the benefit of being able to pop into each other’s offices, which we used to do regularly before lockdown, and we will need to find the best way of trying to replicate this. I am swamped by emails (I probably receive more than I did pre-lockdown) but I make a point of keeping an eye out for, and prioritising, emails from team members such as Chloe.
One of the things which I am keen to ensure is that all team members have clear goals and objectives for the financial year ahead and that they have the necessary support to achieve them. It is also important that everyone feels motivated and as energised as they can do, and has a clear sense of what we are trying to achieve overall as a team and buys into that. We are making a point of focusing on this now.
Finally, we did a social hour at the end of a recent virtual executive leadership team meeting which, I have to confess, was a lot more fun than I had anticipated! It involved a cocktail-making competition and a quiz, something which I am keen to do with the team.
Martin Mankabady is a partner at Dentons in London
Remote working is a relatively new experience for me. While Dentons actively supports flexible working, I have always lived relatively close to the office and, therefore, it is not something I had really taken advantage of before lockdown. Now I can honestly say that I am a convert! Although I will admit that remote working is not without its challenges.
One of those challenges, as a junior lawyer, is being able to continue learning and developing by working alongside experienced colleagues, and having the benefit of supervision from partners and senior lawyers.
One partner I work closely with is Martin, who is global chair of Dentons’ insurance group. Before lockdown, when we were working on a transaction or a regulatory matter together, I had the benefit of being able to pop into Martin’s office to ask a question or chat through a piece of drafting. Since lockdown started, our approach has changed.
One of these changes is that Martin has scheduled daily 11am video calls for the corporate insurance sub-team which I try to join as often I can. This allows me to stay connected with Martin and the team, keep up to date with the team’s initiatives, and also chat through and be supervised on our ongoing matters. It is also an opportunity to discuss our working situations, and learn about each other’s set-ups and experiences, which I think has brought the team closer together on a more sociable, as well as professional level.
I have also found this happening with many other colleagues and sub-teams within the corporate department. I connect fortnightly with the venture capital team, try to join the weekly funds team video calls as often as I can, and the corporate UK-wide department has a video call every Friday afternoon. I also have more regular ‘coffee catch-ups’ with my mentor.
While I miss being able to pop into a colleague’s office for a physical face-to-face meeting, the changes that we have made to adapt to working remotely actually mean that I have more ‘face time’ with my colleagues, particularly with senior lawyers and partners (albeit virtually).
Connecting with colleagues has become a priority within our team, and therefore I am finding that I have more access to partners to provide me with support and supervision, while still being able to work independently.
Although I am looking forward to seeing my colleagues in person once the restrictions have lifted, this remote working experience has been much better than I expected, and I look forward to it forming a sizeable part of the next ‘new normal’.
Chloe Gill is an associate at Dentons, London