Coronavirus has been with us since the beginning of the year. However, I personally did not feel the impact until 16 March 2020 when I was at Court.
As 10am approached, the waiting areas filled up and social distancing was impossible. I started to feel anxious. A colleague confessed to “feeling paranoid”. My lay client and her interpreter were each feeling very concerned, so much so that my client could hardly speak! We conducted our “socially distanced” conference as best we could. Never before have I felt so pleased to leave Court!
Lockdown was introduced on 23 March 2020. Cases systematically came out of my diary on a daily basis with no indication as to when they would be re-listed. I was left wondering what the future would hold. Prior to Lockdown, I had enrolled for a course on “paperless working”. Having been in practice for a number of years, I needed the comfort of having a paper bundle for each case. I hoped that this course might give me the confidence to at least try to work digitally, which would save me having to carry huge bundles around. The course was re-scheduled to take place via Zoom, and I registered.
Whilst I cannot profess to be a total convert to “paperless working”, I have hopefully learnt enough to enable me to reduce the weight of papers that I carry to Court. Not only did I learn new tips on “paperless working” but it opened my eyes to a whole new way of communicating that has improved my life during lockdown.
Believe it or not, prior to lockdown, the very thought of speaking to someone on “Facetime” or “Skype” freaked me out. That was soon to change, as I was invited to attend several virtual meetings with Chambers, the Inn, Bar Council etc. Very quickly I became proficient at using Skype for Business, Starleaf, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and more recently the new Cloud Video Platform. I have now been transported into the digital 21st Century! Telephone hearings quickly became the norm and some video hearings have taken place.
I have been amazed how lay clients have managed to participate in video hearings whilst at the same time having an interpreter on the phone who contemporaneously translates what is being said. Not having to travel to Court has meant that for the first time in a long time, I have had time to do other things that I enjoy. Early on in lockdown, I took the view that I would make the most of this time. I have completed several CPD courses to keep myself up to date.
In this digital age, especially during the pandemic, it is very easy to be contactable by solicitors 24/7 on 7 days a week. So, it is essential for our wellbeing to set a timescale each day, outside which we do not respond to work emails or calls. I have made it a rule that I do not send or respond to solicitors’ emails after 8pm or on weekends. Each day I stop to have a break at lunch time. This is something I never did before lockdown, but it is something I will continue, even if it is only for 30 minutes.
Although I may have managed my wellbeing quite well during lockdown, I am very
conscious that some people have not. We need to be kind to each other and bear in mind that whilst others may seem to be coping well, they may be struggling. Keep in touch with your close and extended families, your friends and colleagues. Your call may just “make their day”. Stay safe and keep well!
Linda A Turnbull
Linda was called in 1998 and is a member of Goldsmith Chambers. She has a busy family and immigration practice. Linda is a Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn; Co-Chair of Lincoln’s Inn Social & Wellbeing Group, Lincoln’s Inn’s Representative on the Bar Council and a member of the Bar Council Education & Training Committee and Wellbeing at the Bar Group.