Steering a Personal Injury firm through the Covid 19 lockdown
(Posted on 02/09/20)
Lockdown life started a little earlier at Mooneerams solicitors than the official March 23rd date set by the government. On the 17th March one of our members declared that he wasn’t feeling well and in accordance with the prevailing advice at the time, decided that he should self-isolate.
Without further ado, the management of our boutique Cardiff personal injury solicitors’ firm, decided that that as a precaution the business should close the bricks and mortar office and that we should all instead work remotely i.e. from home.
Thankfully, our colleague did not have Covid19, but in many ways we are grateful that the decision to close when we did was made so decisively. It gave the whole team confidence, at what was remember, a very scary time, that the directors of Mooneerams had things under control. It also sent a message to Mooneerams’ employees and subsequently to its clients that it had their interests at heart.
The early days of lockdown were difficult for the whole nation. The phrase ‘unprecedented times’ started to be bandied about in news reports and even emails to clients, colleagues and our litigation opponents, until it became an annoying cliché!
Nevertheless, they were then and even now still are unprecedented times and we’ll admit, we have had much to learn along the way over the past 5/6 months.
At the time of writing this article the world is not back to ‘normal’ and is unlikely to be so for some time. People are talking about a new kind of ‘normal’ anyway – one that involves much more flexible working, with ever more reliance on technology as a means of communication with colleagues and clients alike.
How have Mooneerams fared since lockdown commenced?
- We went to remote working very quickly and without any hesitation or reservation. Protection of our employees was our primary motivator. New laptops were sourced and provided. We already had a very good case management system in place, great IT support and already used an out of hours phone answering service. Working in conjunction with these outsourced agencies, the technical side of home working was implemented pretty seamlessly.
- The business has remained open in a virtual sense throughout the pandemic lockdown. A couple of members of our team went onto furlough. As for the rest, the overwhelming majority have remained working full time.
- We assessed our financial position and requirements going forwards as a matter of urgency in conjunction with our accountants and other financial advisers. Our business is based on solid financial foundations and has been for many years. We have never cut corners on our business needs, but we are not an extravagant firm beyond those needs. The directors have been perfect role models in that respect!
Have we been saving for a rainy day? If we have, that approach has proved to be a sound one!
- As a priority we have kept up constant communication with our team members. There was a sense that everyone was in this together. We have an active intranet, an internal WhatsApp account and something called a mobile phone that we can pick up and call everyone on, to see how they are and whether they are facing any difficulties, whether practically or from a mental health perspective.
- Zoom and Microsoft teams have opened up video communication for us both internally as a team or in groups, for our clients to be able to meet with us virtually and for us to carry out our duties to the court on behalf of our clients.
- We’ve been pleased to see cases settling for our clients throughout the past 5/6 months. It’s important that our clients see that we are not just open, to ‘keep things ticking over.’ There is no reason why their cases can’t be progressed.
Although there are delays at court in terms of court summons being issued and court hearing dates being fixed, it has been incumbent on us not to trot out Covid19 as an excuse for simply not doing the work to progress cases!
- After lockdown, the numbers of new clients coming to us with personal injury claims quickly started to slow down. There was an undoubted lull throughout the country in terms of new legal cases for a few months after lockdown. The company that manages the ‘claims portal’ through which most lower value road traffic accident claims, employer’s liability claims and public liability claims confirmed this in their report of claims numbers for April 2020. This showed that new claims being commenced were down by between 40% and almost 60%.
Our good fortune was that we have, over the past few years invested heavily in digital marketing. In April this year we launched our brand new personal injury claims website. As lockdown started to ease and some form of normality returned, so too did new client instructions. This was in no small part due to the increased traffic capabilities of our new website.
As it stands at the time of writing, we are not alone in feeling that the numbers of people needing the services of solicitors across almost all sectors are again at pre-covid levels or thereabouts.
- What about our clients? Along with ensuring the wellbeing of our employees, looking after the needs of our clients has been our number one priority ever since the coronavirus crisis started.
We act on behalf of personal injury clients with a whole range of injury severities, from those with relatively minor whiplash injuries, through to others who have suffered very serious injuries indeed.
They have needed to know that we have not downed tools and the settlements of some of those clients cases, interim payments obtained for others and our maintenance of a high level of client care despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic lockdown, has perhaps given everyone at Mooneerams the most satisfaction.
And what of the future?
It would be foolish to try and be too clever in predicting what happens in the coming months – in any walk of life.
There are certainly challenges for personal injury solicitors and that isn’t just due to the problems caused by the coronavirus. In April next year the several times postponed ‘whiplash’ reforms are due to be implemented. Whether they will benefit would be personal injury claimants, as is their stated intention, remains a subject of debate. What is anticipated is that the financial implications of the reforms will lead to some firms that currently undertake personal injury work, maybe even a significant number, leaving the sector.
What we have little doubt about, is that Mooneerams will still be here.
There is a saying?
‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’
From a business sense we’ve found that to be true. We are sure the same has been true for other businesses that have maintained themselves in a healthy all round condition in recent years.
For Mooneerams, this hasn’t happened by accident. We are convinced that we have benefited from good housekeeping over many years, from specialising in our own chosen area of law, from treating our work colleagues fairly and as just that – colleagues, not ‘staff’ and finally, by putting our clients at the forefront of what we do. As a result, we have thus far been able to withstand all the business challenges that Covid19 has thus far thrown at us. Don’t bet against us saying much the same again, this time next year!
Provided and written by Carl Waring, Head of Business Development, Mooneerams Solicitors.
Carl is an experienced solicitor with over 35 years experience of working in the legal profession.
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