Lawyers and the legal system in lockdown

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In the latest legal column from Woodfines, Nathan Taylor-Allkins, Senior Associate in their Road Transport, Crime & Regulatory team gives an insight into how he has been balancing work and family life during the lockdown.

I can’t quite believe we are nearly into July.

I recall when lockdown first started, we were talking about the summer like it was a dot on the horizon and now it’s officially here and the weather is apparently hotter than in Barbados (well it’s hot while I’m writing this blog – it will probably be raining cats and dogs tomorrow).

Like many with a young family, the closure of schools and nurseries required a considerable amount of mental Tetris and planning of my and my wife’s diaries so we could meet the demands of our work and juggle our children’s needs.

With a six-year-old and three-year-old (plus four house cats), you probably wouldn’t describe it as an ideal set up for the most efficient home working environment but the kids adapted remarkably well and, in truth, I have loved every minute of time spent with or around the family when I would otherwise not have had the opportunity.

The home office I have set up is perfectly located overlooking our garden and it also happens to be right next to the food cupboards and snacks – temptation has definitely gotten the better of me on more than a few occasions!

My wife and I have found splitting the day in half to be the best way with additional hours being worked either side in the mornings and evenings.

This has not been an easy task by any means due to the pressures of both our jobs but we have managed as best we can in the circumstances and we have both earned an even greater respect for teachers than we previously had.

Our alcohol fridge also deserves special recognition for its pivotal role in helping us get through lockdown!

In terms of working procedures, I try to be as disciplined a possible with either working or looking after the children without merging the two but as my daughter has now returned to school, it is just our Tasmanian Devil of a 3 year old for us to try and entertain.

I have developed a sixth sense for when the ‘mute’ button on my work phone is required to stop an errant “Daddy, I need the toilet” or “Daddy, I’m hungry” coming through to my handset.

I also now find myself double and triple checking documents to ensure that a cat hasn’t inadvertently stood on my laptop without me knowing to avoid complete gibberish being included in an important document or email.

I frequently start a video conference or meeting now with a disclaimer that a cat or child may make an unexpected appearance and it is always met with a friendly and understanding response.

You may have read how the Criminal Justice sector has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown; more than half of courts in England and Wales were closed and only urgent cases such as overnight custody, terrorism and coronavirus-related crimes were being dealt with.

We are starting to see an increase in face-to-face hearings being listed but the backlog of cases waiting to be heard in both the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts that was present before lockdown has been exacerbated and current reports are that there are now more than 524,000 cases waiting to be heard in both courts.

Notwithstanding this, our department has been relatively busy and the lockdown appears to have given prosecutors and regulators an opportunity of ‘clearing their decks’.

Through our adapted working systems, including providing virtual meetings and electronically exchanged correspondence, we have been able to continue to provide clients with effective advice and assistance remotely in what is for many the most critical times in their lives.

In relation to the broader regulatory work we do, one of the keys tasks on my daily agenda is trying to keep up to date on changes and developments in the areas of specialism the department deals with, including transport, licensing, and health and safety.

This has been a full-time job in itself given the impact Covid-19 has had on these sectors but there is a fantastic camaraderie between professionals in these areas with information, advice and guidance freely shared and disseminated.

I have tried to explain what I do to my children but it is usually met with blank or confused faces. Instead, I focus on trying to make every day as fun as possible and filled with as many memories as possible.

I am fascinated by how they will remember this period but for the moment all we can do is focus on the here and now and try to make the very best of a bad situation.

I hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well during these unprecedented times.

Nathan Taylor-Allkins

In association with Woodfines Solicitors

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