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Pippa  Allsop

Senior Associate, Michelmores

Out with the old, in with the new

Out with the old, in with the new


Working remotely now feels normal for Pippa Allsop, but her main difficulty has been a human issue not technological

As I prepared for my nth remote hearing recently – balancing my laptop on an assortment of large books and boxes so that the other hearing participants could look at my face as opposed to up the nose – I suddenly wondered when '¨this absolutely bonkers situation had started to feel oddly normal. 

As a profession, we have adjusted rather well to the requirements of remote working over the past four months; though certainly not seamlessly. But I had not anticipated that this way of working would become so familiar so quickly. I had not envisaged the slightly odd feeling I experienced when I physically attended my first hybrid hearing in an actual court. 

Somehow, doing what had previously been routine for years did not feel normal. I’m fully aware a large part of that was because the court was eerily quiet; and you risked being disinfected by an overly zealous court employee if you lingered too long in one place. However, I had not anticipated it feeling so bizarre after only a relatively short hiatus. 

There’s been considerable commentary speculating that the pandemic will undoubtedly cause a shift in attitudes towards working practices in our profession. Before covid-19, employers and employees were already becoming more mindful of the need to move towards flexible working and its tangible benefits. 

The pandemic has dispelled a great deal of the historic myths associated with flexible and or remote working. I think the most prevalent of these is that people are less productive when they are not in the office being ‘watched over’ by the powers that be. Leaving aside any concerns about the apparent lack of trust in adults to do their jobs without being guarded, we know in our profession that we have to account for every unit of our day. 

So it’s a profession in which you might assume that the ‘remote working = skiving off’ myth was not prevalent – but it is. Lockdown has undoubtedly helped to smash a hole through this largely unfounded theory and it’s my hope that it continues once we’re out on the other side. 

Another issue borne from lack of trust was that the technology would not support widespread long-term remote working. Whether on an individual day-to-day basis or in terms of interacting with clients and conferences and court hearings virtually, it’s safe to say there was an understandable concern that the road would be a bumpy and possibly unnavigable one. 

I can’t say I have not faced technology-related challenges, but my primary difficulty has been a human issue as opposed to technological. The biggest struggle to overcome has been client interaction, particularly when dealing with emotionally fraught private issues.

There are nuances of human interaction which are unavoidably lost – even over superfast broadband – and I have had to work hard at identifying how to compensate for this so that my clients feel as supported as they would if we were sitting in the same room. 

The other downside to my dining table being my office is that my office is my dining table. The most pleasant part about home working has been the flexibility it affords; but it has blurred the lines for me even further between work and home. I initially found myself working much longer hours and dipping into emails when I had finished for the day, unable to switch off. 

I have not perfected this yet, but this slippery slope has led me to invoke a greater degree of self-discipline when it comes to really switching off for the evening. 

My hope is that we shall emerge from this with some positive new working practices and attitudes and, equally, that we can identify what is not good for us as a profession. 

I hope we will receive encouragement from employers to identify and adopt what worked well and discard what has not. The fact that working flexibly and remotely now feels so normal will help to push us in the direction that is required.  

Pippa Allsop is an associate at Michelmores