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Chaynee Hodgetts

Features and Opinion Editor & Barrister, Solicitors Journal & Libertas Chambers

Quotation Marks
“It would be all too easy to allow such things to be taken out of proportion, and we must also keep a sense of balance, perspective, and above all, common sense.”

Post-pandemic professionalism

Post-pandemic professionalism


Chaynee Hodgetts considers post-covid 19 professional etiquette for lawyers

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” As Clarence Thomas observed, there’s a lot to be said for getting on, as well as getting on with it. In the current climate, at least two years in to the pandemic which has drastically changed the way we live, things are still proving to be a challenge. After the bewilderment of 2020, and the cautious hopes for the future of 2021, in 2022, the question is perhaps “what next?” It remains to be seen how things will unfold with the pandemic and its associated political performances.

However, one thing remains clear – unless and until things progress, a degree of disruption is inevitable. This disruption is affecting all of us – from buying food, to public transport, and staffing levels. In the courts, after a period of attempting in-person attendances as much as possible, we are now seeing a return to the use of CVP for many hearings other than full criminal trials (which cannot currently ordinarily be conducted by CVP).

Honey or vinegar?

However, both the use of CVP and covid-19 disruptions have seen a rise in tensions among practitioners – who should be professional to one another in working practice. The need to adjourn a trial, seek an appearance be via CVP, or even for counsel to return instructions, are never decisions that are taken lightly – and are usually only sought where absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, this has not prevented such things from evoking criticism in some instances (be it from one’s opposition, or the occasional instructing solicitor). We should remember that what goes around, comes around – and that we too may need help, or some logistical support, should we find ourselves in a pandemic predicament too.

Scope for misunderstanding

If something doesn’t make sense, or you’re concerned by the reason for a colleague’s actions, why not ask in a less confrontational way, such as “I’ve noticed X. Is everything okay?” or other words to that effect? An approach where the person feels able to explain, as opposed to challenged to explain themselves, is far more likely to lead to a productive discussion.

Furthermore, e-mails and other forms of remote communication are rife with scope for misunderstanding, or for coming across more aggressively than might have been meant. Similarly, telephone calls or phone conferences are ready environments for inadvertent over-speaking and interruption, simple because the parties cannot see when one person has finished speaking, or when another is about to start.

We can but try…

It would be all too easy to allow such things to be taken out of proportion, and we must also keep a sense of balance, perspective, and above all, common sense. But one thing is clear – we must retain a sense of professionalism to our fellow practitioners – pandemic or not. If we lose that sense of courtesy to one another, our level of respect – and also out service to clients will also decline. We need to retain the basic principles and parameters of politeness.

It’s of little help to courts, clients, or colleagues if counsel are sniped at for a period of inability to attend in person – or if solicitors need external help and cover after falling ill themselves. We all need to pull together – or things will fall apart. Furthermore, many of us have additional caring responsibilities – for ill or isolating children, spouses, or elderly parents – and, when appearing remotely, we are often doing these things alongside the usual working day.

To criticise or challenge anyone for appearing remotely when they are simply following the legal requirements, or looking after an ill dependent, seems really quite unnecessary. It’s far better to assume that if someone is attending remotely, it is for a genuinely good reason – or they would be in court. We should not make it the “new normal” for there to be rudeness, aggressiveness, or interrogating other practitioners about “good reasons” or querying their medical status – as everyone is simply doing the best they can.

Chaynee Hodgetts FRSA is our Features and Opinion Editor, Honorary Lecturer in Law, and Mature Pupil Barrister with Nexus, the Chambers of Michael Mansfield QC:;;