Mon 27 Jul 2020

Finding my feet in lockdown

The Government's lockdown has forced lots of people, including those of us in the legal sector, to adjust to the new reality of working remotely. It’s been even more of a rollercoaster qualifying as a solicitor and joining a new firm.

Let's rewind to February. For the last two years I had been working hard towards completing my traineeship in May 2020 and beginning life as a fully qualified Scottish solicitor. I had recently secured a newly qualified role with Morton Fraser's commercial litigation team based in Glasgow. Like most people in my position, I had planned to have a celebratory night before enjoying a week long annual leave and a trip home to the Isle of Lewis to visit family and continue the celebrations. Instead, I found myself celebrating this milestone in my flat on week 8 of self-isolating…there would be no party, trip home, or even a chance to clear my old desk! Fortunately, friends had organised a surprise Zoom party, which in the last few months has become the new going out.

However, one thing was guaranteed - I would be starting Morton Fraser the following week, which was a relief to me during these uncertain times. I'd been fortunate enough to meet the team prior to lockdown for coffee and the Partner in my team, Nicola Ross, had kept in touch throughout lockdown to check-in on me and reassure me that I still had a job to come to! Small acts like this can go amiss in some work places but it's just one example of why Morton Fraser was named one of the Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For in 2019. 

My first day in my new role was spent undertaking a remote induction with our IT and HR team. It went smoothly and the ability to screen-share really does remove any barrier to an IT induction from home! I can't say that I'm the Bill Gates of our case management system, but I had the rest of the day to get to know the system and read-up on the protocols and practices. One benefit of lockdown is that it does give you that extra time to read over important documents you would normally breeze through or take for granted. The next day I joined the team on our weekly online meeting - it's good to put names to faces and 'meet' everyone you will be working with. It's also not as daunting as the standard tour around an office trying to remember names in a matter of seconds, although I've been told I will still get my meet and greet tour around the office when we return.

The rest of my first week was spent assisting the rest of the team on different files, getting familiar with the Morton Fraser standard practices and easing me into the work that I will find myself undertaking in due course. My first week went a lot faster than the previous week's annual leave - which can only be a good sign! It was finished off with colleagues arranging an informal Friday drinks on Zoom and getting to meet some of the other newly qualified solicitors across the firm. It was a great way to get to know others and, even more unusually for a drink after work, there was no need to get the round in and queue for a drink!

Over the course of the next few weeks I found myself beginning to build up my caseload and gaining client interaction. It does feel like learning a new language when you start with a new firm, but the support and guidance from the rest of my team has been invaluable during this time… there have been a lot of questions and to the team's credit, a lot of patience and tutoring in these first few months! Time spent between working on cases is used browsing through the firm's online knowledge bank, which could give Westlaw a run for its money. Having the opportunity to undertake personal study and have the resources you need available remotely has been fantastic. Often in a new job, you can find yourself rushing into the work and perhaps neglecting your own personal development in order to meet targets. I'm fortunate to be with a firm that sets realistic, yet ambitious, targets whilst ensuring there is a healthy balance with personal growth and opportunity to learn.

I'm now coming to the end of my tenth week at Morton Fraser and despite not having stepped foot into the office or met colleagues in person, I feel very much part of the team and wider Morton Fraser community. I've already made my first post-lockdown appearance in court (virtually), attended business development drinks with clients (virtually), and had the opportunity to meet the wider team at last month's successful AGM (yes…virtually and with over 180 colleagues in attendance!) 

The last few months have provided their challenges for all of us. What could have been a baptism of fire has in fact been a rewarding experience overall. I've had the benefit of a more relaxed approach to integrating and understanding from colleagues that the nature of our current work lives makes the process challenging. Would I have preferred there not to have been a lockdown in place when I started my new role? Absolutely. Do I think I've been disadvantaged by the lockdown? No. I've been fortunate to join a firm that had already embraced the work from home ethic prior to lockdown and has been able to successfully adapt its tried and tested approach to training and development remotely.

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