As we write, it would be easy to talk about the Covid19 pandemic as if everything were back to normal. It’s not of course. Towns and cities are still devoid of vast numbers of office workers. With new restrictions being imposed on social gatherings and rising numbers of new COVID cases, there are real fears of another nationwide lockdown. Here we discuss how we survived lockdown which might help others if there are further measures put in place.
At this point in time, we are starting to see some sense of normality returning. This is true certainly when compared to the bleak days of late March and the immediate aftermath.
What a few months those were too! For us, at Mooneerams personal injury solicitors in Cardiff, lockdown life began a little earlier than it did for most other businesses. One of our directors felt unwell and decided to self-isolate in line with government advice at the time.
As a result of this, it was decided that our solicitors’ practice should go into remote working immediately This was on the 17th of March 2020.
It’s amazing how survival instinct kicks in when the chips are down. None of us had formally worked from home before. Yet, here we were, faced with everyone having to do so, immediately.
Here’s how we dealt with a situation where we survived lockdown, and like the rest of the UK, was an entirely new experience!
Protection of our employees was our prime motivator in getting this done so quickly. As soon as our sick colleague went into self-isolation (he didn’t have COVID, it transpired), we had no hesitation in ensuring that we facilitated home working as a matter of urgency, even before it became government policy to do so.
Top of the range laptops were bought for everyone. Thankfully we had already invested heavily in ensuring that we had a great Case Management System. We’ve also very responsive IT support and an out of office call answering service, which quickly became our full-time virtual reception.
We still had the odd teething troubles, but these were dealt with. Otherwise, everyone quickly adapted to home working pretty seamlessly and was one of the reasons we survived lockdown.
Still open for business
We have remained open throughout, albeit in a virtual sense. Our have got into the habit of jumping to respond to calls from clients. We have been aware that as much as this has been stressful for us as a business, it’s probably been doubly stressful for many clients with job losses, furloughing and the added uncertainty as to whether the lockdown would have an effect on how quickly their personal injury claims would be settled.
It’s a cliché but it’s true – our clients are our lifeblood. We have owed them as much of professional service during the lockdown as we do under normal circumstances.
We addressed our financial position immediately. Together with our accountants and other financial advisors we took an immediate inventory. The overwhelming majority of our team have continued working full time throughout lockdown.
Thankfully our business model has been built on very solid financial foundations, over many years. As No Win, No Fee solicitors we are used to carrying the weight of disbursements and indeed our own ‘Work in Progress’ on our shoulders. That is the nature of our business. We haven’t though ever fallen into the trap of resorting to the use of fee or disbursement funding finance. That has been our saviour.
We did avail ourselves of some of the special government business loan facilities that were on offer, as a safety net. Remember that at the outset of lockdown we were all staring into the unknown. Unless there are dramatic turns of events in the coming months, we’ll be returning those loans untouched.
Communicating with the team
We’ve been astonished to talk with people in our day to day business dealings during lockdown who say that they have been very much left to their own devices. As a consequence, they are feeling anxious and lacking in motivation.
Whether it’s because we comprise a team of no more than, at full extent, 18 people or just because our ethos is different to others, but we’ve kept open as many lines of communication with each other as possible. From WhatsApp through to our Intranet, Zoom and the good old mobile phone, we’ve kept up a constant dialogue with everyone who works at Mooneerams. The mental wellbeing of every one of our staff members is important.
Like the rest of the nation who survived lockdown, we’ve very much taken to Zoom. To a lesser extent, we’ve used Microsoft Teams. As a law firm, it’s been doubly important. Not only can we communicate with our clients ( and our colleagues), but the courts have also resorted to using Zoom to conduct court hearings, too.
We are a business that very much relies on word of mouth for our new business. Recommendations from new clients and the fruits of a successful and heavy investment into digital marketing are our chief sources of work. We don’t ‘buy’ claims or leads.
Our business is here to help those who have been injured in accidents. Thes can include road traffic accidents, accidents at work and public liability accidents. After lockdown, it’s probably not untrue to say that the numbers of new clients coming to us, fell off the radar completely. It’s hardly surprising. No one was on the roads, at work or walking around our towns and cities.
Accident claim statistics for April showed that the numbers of new claims being started were down by as much as 60% from pre-COVID levels.
As lockdown restrictions were gradually eased the numbers of vehicles on the road increased. So too did the amount of new business coming through the door. This trend has continued on an upwards curve as people have started to drift back to offices and factories. There is a feeling that there may be a boom in new personal injury claims, but this remains to be seen and is in any event dependent on there not being a ‘second wave’ of the pandemic.
The million-dollar question – how has cashflow been during a lockdown? It has been interesting to note how little, for us certainly, the lockdown has affected cash flow at this stage. We have seen the fruits of work done before the pandemic took hold, coming in after it took hold, but it’s also shown us how well our colleagues have taken to remote working and how diligent they have been.
We’ve noticed a bit of a sea change in our relationship with ‘the other side’. As we are a claimant personal injury firm (we act for the man on the street) our opponents are insurance companies and their solicitors. Quite often the relationship we have with ‘the other side’ can be difficult. We are protecting our clients’ interests, they theirs.
However, the pandemic did seem to bring with it a sense of ‘all being in this together’ and this permeated itself into our working relationships with our opponents. There was more of a willingness to do business and to try and negotiate settlement of claims. This has undoubtedly been to the benefit of our clients and to our cash flow, too.
Where is all this going?
To date, since lockdown first started, we have been very happy with how our business has performed on all levels. While we’ve survived lockdown, we’ve maintained our professional standards and the high level of client care that is vital to what we do. Cash flow has remained healthy and we have provided fully paid employment to the vast majority of our staff. New business levels, after an inevitable dip, are returning to pre-lockdown levels.
Where this all goes, depends very much on the COVID virus itself and the government’s reaction to it. If there is a second wave during winter, then like all businesses we will be faced with severe challenges once again. We are recovering well, and we have learned lessons which have helped to ensure we survived lockdown. Unfortunately, another prolonged lockdown will once again throw all the cards up into the air for everyone, not just for us.
What is the phrase?
“These are unprecedented times!”
They certainly are.