23 Mar 2021

News

Lockdown – one year on

This week at Harding Evans, as people all across the UK mark the first anniversary of the start of the national lockdown, we too have been taking stock and reflecting on the extraordinary events of the last year.

Our Chief Executive, Joy Phillips looks back on how our lives have changed in the last 12 months.

It has been a year unlike any of us have ever experienced. As we mark the one year anniversary of the first lockdown starting, our thoughts inevitably turn to loved ones who’ve passed away, to businesses that have been forced to close, to milestones and celebrations that have been missed and to livelihoods that have vanished.

With everything that has happened over the last twelve months, it is unsurprising that we all feel sadness and a sense of loss, but, as restrictions start to ease once more and the vaccine rollout continues at a pace, we must also cling on to a sense of hope as we look to what will surely be a more positive future.

There is no doubt that it has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone since Boris Johnson first announced on 23 March last year that we must all stay at home to stay safe, protect the NHS and save lives.

Overnight, hundreds of thousands of businesses across the UK had to put arrangements in place for its employees to work from home, and either furlough those who were not able to work remotely or make some tough decisions about scaling back their workforce. While for many, there was no option but to take the foot off the gas, other organisations had to go into overdrive, working tirelessly to provide products and services that were suddenly in huge demand.

The legal sector, like so many others, had to adapt quickly. At Harding Evans, while we have all had to endure so much, both personally and professionally, we have been privileged to be able to continue operating throughout the pandemic.

Last March, we immediately moved a large proportion of our staff to remote working and they all adjusted well to the new working practices, even those who had to juggle childcare and home-schooling commitments. As a provider of essential services, we needed to maintain a presence in the office and, thanks to the hard work of our HR colleagues in particular, we were able to stay open by putting in place all the necessary COVID-safe working guidelines.

Despite all the challenges we’ve been presented with, we have hit our business targets for the year and have continued to provide exceptional levels of client service throughout. This achievement is down to the incredible resilience, spirit and flexibility that our teams have shown.

Several of our services have been hit hard, whereas other departments have been busier than ever. With the housing market still in overdrive, our conveyancing team has been working at full capacity since last summer when the stamp duty and land transaction tax holidays were announced, with thousands of people keen to move home after re-evaluating their priorities during lockdown.

Our Wills and Family teams have also seen an increased demand for their services this year as more and more people have wanted to get their affairs in order or make changes to their home lives after so many months in lockdown.

Businesses have faced a whole host of new employment challenges through the year, and have had the difficult task of navigating their way through the minefield of job retention schemes and employee returns to work. Our Employment Law team has been busy providing support to a wide range of these organisations, as well as individuals who have been affected by issues at work related to the pandemic.

While dealing with all the day-to-day issues that have cropped up throughout the year, we have also tried to keep one eye firmly focussed on the future.

Looking forward, we sincerely hope that when the pandemic is finally over, there will be plenty of positives for us all to hang on to from this very strange time. The legal sector as a whole has had to update its practices, introduce more flexibility and adapt to new technology, which can only be a good thing.

While there is still clearly some way to go, we have high hopes that we will be able to return to some sort of normality over the course of this year and look forward to the day when we can see our colleagues and clients, friends and families again.

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