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Positive Steps with Claudia Lacey of Freeths

1. Charitable and social initiatives: Despite being physically separated, the Freeths Charity and Social Committee has been extremely active; we have kept the Freeths community spirit high through organising a variety of virtual social initiatives such as Zoom quizzes, Microsoft Teams lunches and a firm-wide monthly book club! These activities have helped to bring the firm together; the Freeths book club, in particular, has aided in developing relationships and cross-team and office communication during a period of physical separation. Personally, I have found that founding and participating in the book club has afforded me continual learning, provided stimulating conversation and company and has helped me to learn more about my colleagues.

We have also continued supporting local charities; we will be participating in the Oxford Legal Walk in order to raise awareness and funding for legal advice agencies who are struggling to maintain services with the increased challenges created by COVID-19 and the lockdown. In addition, we are continually accepting donations from staff for our nominated local charity, Cradle, to support women in hospital who have lost their babies.

2. Team spirit: Alongside firm-wide social events, the corporate team has also kept spirits and productivity high. We have daily Microsoft Teams calls to discuss our action plan for the day ahead and, should any support be required, colleagues are just a click of a button away. Organisation, support and efficiency has certainly not declined whilst working from home!

As well as keeping up to date with work streams, the department has found other ways to motivate and challenge each other – currently, we are all competing to get the best 5K time. The record presently stands at 24 minutes and I am determined to beat it!

Now that lockdown restrictions are easing, the office has now reopened with a 20% capacity. This has provided opportunity for the team to physically reunite and partially get back into the swing of things. Freeths has been very supportive and aware of the challenges that many employees face, such as childcare, so there has been no pressure to return to the office. It has been clear that the wellbeing of staff is, and has been throughout lockdown, the priority.

3. Freeths Coronavirus Hub: The development of the Hub has been instrumental for our clients; providing regular legal updates across all practice areas. Of course, much has changed since the beginning of the pandemic and it is important to understand the latest developments in order for businesses and individuals to ensure compliance and to best plan for the future.

Due to client demand, we are also running a number of webinars on the core topics we are being asked for advice and guidance on the most, for example ‘ How to Manage Your Contracts in the New Normal’.

We have also set up a Coronavirus Helpline for businesses, where they can receive a free consultation on COVID-19 related commercial enquiries. Our experienced litigators are also offering free disputes surgery calls to help provide support for any queries.

More information can be found on our website: https://www.freeths.co.uk/coronavirus/

4. Professional Development: Not only have we been hosting webinars for our clients on the latest COVID-19 developments, but we have also been receiving regular training on the latest legal developments in our practice areas. This has helped to ensure that we can provide complete and up to date advice to our clients and has aided with our personal professional development.

Training is delivered virtually by teams across all offices and has not only had professional developmental benefits but has also provided an opportunity to meet colleagues that due to being based in different offices, we had never met before.

5. Connecting with clients: Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have prioritised our clients. We have emailed and called clients to check how they were and to see if there was anything we could assist them with. We have emailed weekly updates and articles from the Hub, tailoring messages aiming to reassure, inform and explain.

Social distancing measures have meant that we have not met many of our clients in person. However, this has not been a barrier as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have ensured effective communication throughout catch up calls and transactions. Now that travel is no longer an option, we are able to schedule more virtual meetings and adapt to our clients’ schedules.

We have also received training on DocuSign and have used this effectively in transactions; the pandemic has not been a barrier to development or technological advancements and we have adapted and learnt to overcome any challenges that have presented themselves to us!