Nobody can prepare for anything like this. Panic sets in, events quickly unfold and what was an ebullient market is stopped in its tracks by the need to preserve life and our society. This is not hyperbole; it is our new reality. How did Askews Legal react to such unprecedented circumstances? In the inclusive style which the firm is known for, all staff were kept appraised of the plans Management were making as drastic changes in its set-up were made to adapt to this fast moving landscape.
Askews Legal are ahead of many – with an efficient case management system and a variety of meetings and discussion platforms, not only for internal use between staff but which can be extended out to the client base, and other professionals.
Some of the team already worked from home or had remote access to the system, and with the imminent threat of lockdown, all staff were well equipped for home-working, days before this became a mandatory government requirement.
At all times, the focus has been on the wellbeing of staff and clients, recognising the changing business demands and making swift practical changes to accommodate these. Although the staff are now all working from home, the atmosphere and sense of camaraderie remains ever-present in the WhatsApp and Team Meeting chats, if anything, strengthening links and the teams’ resolve to get through this and come out stronger.
The Partners made the pragmatic decision to temporarily close the conveyancing department, despite disquiet from a small number of agents and mortgage advisers. The reason for this? To keep a department open. When many transactions are unable to complete, it means that no matter how much work is done on a file, until lockdown is lifted the matter cannot be billed & much of the work could potentially go to waste. Searches expire, mortgages are withdrawn, a chain (unpredictable at the best of times) cannot go through because the usual variables are exacerbated by the further delays and unknowns caused by the virus.
Askews Legal decided to take the long-view, and in the spirit of the government and The Law Society advice, not bow to the pressure of those clamouring for exchanges and completions that simply cannot happen during the lockdown. Keeping a department open could raise false expectations for clients and expose the staff and the clients to unnecessary risk.
The temporary closure of the department is a measured and strategic response to unprecedented times, balancing business acumen with prioritising the wellbeing of staff and client, showing Askews is thinking with its head – but also its heart.