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The Covid diaries: A daily fly-on-the-wall blog about running a legal business during the Covid-19 crisis

The Covid diaries: A daily fly-on-the-wall blog about running a legal business during the Covid-19 crisis

A daily fly-on-the-wall blog about running a legal business during the Covid-19 crisis.

We have started blogging about life running a law firm during the Covid-19 pandemic. Daily updates. It’s a fly-on-the-wall thing.

We hope you enjoy it! 

By Darren Isaacs and Dónall Breen


Day 19: Thursday 9 April - by Darren Isaacs

Wine Time.

A brief diary entry today.

Frankly, it has been busy again, the sun is out, the long weekend beckons, and most importantly at 5pm (i.e. now) we are having firm (virtual) wine time.

I am leaving this week with one settlement agreement done and (almost) dusted, and another one well and truly on the way.

I am also helping a handful of clients with their template contracts, policies and so forth - all new instructions in the past few days. Not necessarily as exciting as a High Court injunction, but given the amount of pain many businesses are going through right now it feels good - actually great - to be doing something on the 'positive' side of the ledger for some clients, rather than just focusing on furlough.

Speaking of furlough, we had another update from HMRC on its scheme rules overnight, via twitter (where would lawmakers be without it, huh?). So that has also kept us busy today, as we scramble to issue furlough update #1,000,000. You can read all about that on our main website.

Have a great long weekend everyone (for those who are having one). Regular diary service will re-commence on Tuesday!


Day 18: Wednesday 8 April - by Darren Isaacs

Spring is in the air.

The pending long weekend is what everybody needs right now.

We are well and truly in the slide towards Easter - just one more working day after today and then a lovely four-day long weekend. Some of us will need to work a bit on Friday and Monday, but even so, it will be great to have a break. Hopefully cook a nice meal to share with the immediate (and by that, I mean VERY immediate) family/household members.

London typically empties out over Easter as people travel all over the place to be with their families. Not so this year, for obvious reason. Those who have not already left, are here for the long haul. But we will make the most of it. The weather has turned and the warmer days make a welcome change (though it is the UK, so inevitably it will rain on the long weekend itself).

And after 3 weeks of working all the hours possible, it will be great to take a breather and come back refreshed to start Q2.


Day 17: Tuesday 07 April -  by Dónall Breen

I've Had the (Working) Time of My Life.

We are increasingly dealing with more non-Covid related queries. This is quite natural, most clients still have functioning businesses to run. However, to a certain degree you can run, you can hide, but you can't escape my love (for putting queries in the big picture).

For example, one question I got was pretty benign. It was whether you need to record the working time of employees (even if they have opted out of the Working Time Regulations cap on the 48hr working week).

Usually the response is pretty standard. However, there is no avoiding the fact that the practical reality on the ground has changed. Where previously you may have been able to monitor office workers when they swipe in and out for the day, this may not be possible any more if they are working from home. In days gone by home workers may have had set working hours, now the schedule may be far more disjointed due to childcare or other responsibilities.  

This isn't a complaint. One the key skills of being a lawyer is to be flexible with your advice and apply it in a commercial way. But it is an interesting development.

Change in working patterns is traditionally incremental, but we now have to apply the law to dramatically different situations on an almost wholesale basis. The nerdy side of me is even excited by this - suddenly ordinary queries become more extraordinary depending on the circumstances. 

As a tattered inspirational poster in my old school used to say, “Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world."


Day 16: Monday 06 April - by Dónall Breen

Sunshine and royalty, a proper British summer.

This weekend we had our first taste of the British summer to come (hopefully!). We were all basking (from the comfort of our gardens, balconies and south facing windows) in the beautiful sunshine. It was welcomed relief and lifted our spirits. The Queen also made a guest appearance to bring the nation together, reassuring us that we will overcome this. Overall, it was a nice weekend.

As every company I have ever given my email address can attest to, we are all trying to make the most of this and in keeping with the well worn mantra - keep calm and carry on.

We had some employment law updates over the weekend. In an unusual Sunday move, the government released more guidance on the furlough scheme. Good news is that they clarified that employees can work elsewhere when furloughed (with their employer's permission); the bad news is that we still haven't got guidance on the interaction between furlough and holiday entitlement, which many employers are crying out for. Fingers crossed that will come soon.

But the best news of all was that we welcomed a new member to our team. Chris Coombes has joined us as an associate and is looking forward to getting stuck into some work. Although I'm sure it was a strange first day, we had a 'juniors' coffee and all seems to be going well. Although "keep calm and carry on" can be a bit of a cliche at this stage, Chris joining us shows that the firm intends on doing just that. Top quality people, top quality advice - and most importantly - top quality blog posts.

Welcome Chris, it's great to have you on board!


Day 15: Friday 03 April - by Dónall Breen

Fur-low, Sweet Chariot.

As you may have guessed from my name, I don't come from these parts. Born and raised in the Emerald Isle, I came to the UK about 6 years ago when times were good.

Since then, there have been a few hick-ups. Brexit wasn't great for a European here, then there was a bit of political turmoil. But the last few weeks has brought out the best of the British.

From an employment lawyer's perspective, the government response has been pretty good. Although many employers are making the hard decision to furlough, it does mean a large chunk of the working population know they will get money in their accounts rather than facing the prospect of unemployment.

We have seen several clients going above and beyond to take care of their employees during this time.

It hasn't been perfect. We have struggled to get detail from the government on some aspects of its furlough scheme, like the interaction between furlough (on the one hand) and holiday entitlements or consultation (on the other hand). But there is no doubt everyone is doing their best. The government, HMRC, employers, HR and employment lawyers alike. There has been a huge amount of information sharing in the employment law and HR networks as we all genuinely are trying to make sure the right advice is getting out there.

I have no doubt that this is a country where people are at their best when times are at their hardest. I am proud to be here, a part of the solution, working with colleagues and clients who want to make things better. Even if it is just in our little labour law bubble. So this week I sign off with one of my favourite quotes. Until next week, stay safe, stay inside, and bookmark our blog.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


Day 14: Thursday 02 April - by Darren Isaacs

I put on a webinar this afternoon.

It went OK. Actually, I think the content went well, though I was mega-stressed about the setup.

When I do a webinar in the office there is normally a cast of thousands to support me (well, OK, not quite thousands, but at least a few people on-hand). We have someone to collate questions from the audience, co-presenters, an on-site IT person for hardware issues, and a remote IT person for managing the webinar platform. We also put up LOTS of signs in the office announcing that a webinar is in-process (so "can people PLEASE keep any noise to a bare minimum").

Out in the suburbs during a Covid-19 lockdown, it is not quite the same story.

My house is in (north) central London. It is what is known in these parts as a Victorian "mews house" (you can google it). Built in 1894, it was originally a horse stable at the back of a grand building, with the front of the building opening pretty much directly onto a cobbled laneway. The idea in 1894 was that the horses could be stabled directly from the laneway without interrupting the aesthetics of the 5-storey mansion on the main road around the corner.

The original building would have had horses on the ground floor, and then a hay loft where the stable-hand could hang out/sleep etc. Fast-forward to the mid-20th century, and these stables were converted into garages for motor vehicles (logical enough). Fast-forward another generation or so, and they were converted again into ever-so-cute inner-city housing.

So they basically very cute tiny little cottages, usually just two storeys high, often with lovely roses rambling over them at the front, and typically without any outside space. Open the front door and you are literally on the road (usually a cobbled laneway, as is the case for me). 

So presenting a webinar from a home office that sits at the front of the house (like I do) means I am basically 6 feet away from passing cars, deliveries, joggers, and walkers-and-talkers. It's not that there is a steady stream of heavy vehicles or anything, normally it is very pleasant sitting and watching the world go by ... but every sound during a webinar is a test for the nerves. Mine and the audience's.

And today, of all days, some builders decided it would be *great* to start drilling endlessly on a new house being finished up the road (they have been quiet recently, and made a surprise return appearance this afternoon).

Curses.

Possibly the first webinar I have ever thought about giving from what is often referred to here as "the smallest room in the house". Thankfully, it was audio-only.

And even more thankfully, the builders stopped right on time so I could stay in my study.

So, was it worth putting on a webinar so I could write a blog about my house (which I have been itching to do for ages). Absolutely. 


Day 13: Wednesday 01 April - by Dónall Breen

The joke was on us.

Today started like any other, an 'all hands' call to discuss what was going on in the team. However, my mind was elsewhere.

I was busily mocking up a letter from a private jet company saying that one of our partners was trying to put a down-payment on a prime piece of aeronautical equipment in the company name. It was 'inadvertently' circulated to the team and it wasn't long before Captain Harvey was helplessly defending himself, desperately wondering how 'The Private Jet Company Limited' could have got his details. Letter available upon request.

But what happened next was no laughing matter and caught us all off guard. A major piece of non-Covid-19 employment law news!

The Supreme Court handed down its judgement in the Morrisons' case, finding that the supermarket was not vicariously liable for the actions of a rogue employee who deliberately caused a data breach. It was welcome news for employers. Employment lawyers were also rejoicing at having something substantial to dig their teeth into that wasn't contagious.

The Supreme Court decision taught us two things. First, it has provided some good guidance about employer liability and data protection. But two, it was a needy reminder that the world is still turning out there. When life returns to normal (whatever normal might be), businesses will still be there needing to do what they do. Hiring people, managing workforces and getting on with things.

So if (or when) you get more time on your hands, maybe dust down that Data Protection Policy that has not been seen since GDPRmania hit in 2018. Get it ready for a 2020 summer relaunch, thinking about how working from home ties in with your policy. Or perhaps think about what training sessions you might want to run on the topic. 

We are doing the same here, wondering what will be the next big challenge for our clients post-Covid-19. However, that thought will have to wait for another day - I just need to finish off the mortgage application on my new G6 Jet. Thanks GQ ;)


Day 12: Tuesday 31 March - by Dónall Breen

I took a day of annual leave.

We have advised a lot of clients around annual leave recently: the fact that you can now carry over up to four weeks over the next two years (see here), the uncertainty around whether you can take leave during furlough (probably not, but it's not black and white), and the issue of whether you can force employees to take leave even if they do not want to do so (yes, under certain circumstances but best to get their agreement).

But what happens when the rubber hits the road and employees, in isolation, actually do go on leave? To investigate, I took a day off. This special report is brought to you with my findings.

First, make the most of your travel by framing it correctly. For example, instead of going from the garden to the kitchen to eat, I prefer "during Monday I travelled to Los Gardenos to catch some sun followed by a beautiful meal in the renowned Le' Dining Room". I gave the chef a top review.

Secondly, turn off your phone (if you can!). When your home is your office, you need to make an effort to break the work mentality. I made sure Darren had access to my inbox and was on hand to do all my work for me. So in reality, it was like any other day.

Thirdly, find something cultural to do. For one, I did some sightseeing and a walking history tour. This involved downloading a PlayStation game and assassinating people in ancient Rome so all the boxes were checked there.

Finally, keep up your usual holiday routine. I posted a picture on Instagram of me with my cocktail on the beach. Some adjustment was necessary of course. The cocktail was a can of beer and the beach was the doggy toilet in my local park. #StillCounts

All in all, it was actually a pleasant experience. It was nice to switch off for a few hours and just do the usual 'lazy Sunday' thing but on a weekday. Of course, as you can all imagine, the only thing on my mind the whole time was what interesting material I would add to this blog. It's good to be back.


Day 11: Monday 30 March - by Darren Isaacs

I am sick to death of furlough.

In the past few working days, I think I have spent about 20 hours trying to get to the bottom of the UK government's scheme.

How is that even possible, I hear you say?

Well, on the face of it the scheme looks simple enough, and, of course, it is, but equally, of course, out in the real world our clients running businesses have a million real-world, actual business queries - and they all take some thinkin' to get to the bottom of. And unfortunately some of the real world questions have not been dealt with by the government. At all. So we are discussing them a lot internally. Quite reasonably, different legal minds have different legal thoughts about some of the harder questions people are asking, and we have to work through all of this and come to a reasoned view. It just takes time.

As lawyers, we also have this innate need to try and come up with THE solution and THE right answer to every question from every client. At the firm, we really do pride ourselves on offering pragmatic, business-focused solutions. And, psychologically, we absolutely hate it when we can't give rock-solid advice. However, with something like the new furlough scheme we just can't be that precise on a lot of things because the government is making it up as it goes along.

It is teaching me that even as a lawyer who is desperately keen to answer all of his client's questions, sometimes the best answer I can give is the honest one: "we just don't know, so all we can do is work with what we have got". These are uncertain times and even lawyers, who normally love black-and-white rules, need to work with the uncertainty. 


Day 10: Friday 27 March - by Darren Isaacs

Another week, done and dusted!

The UK government's new love of law-by-press-release (or tweet - seems to be the new thing) is proving tricky for all of us. We have been desperately awaiting new regulations to deal with the UK's paid furlough scheme the government is rolling out, but we still don't have any.

Businesses just don't have the luxury of waiting right now so we are in the somewhat surreal position of advising clients on the law without, well, the law. We are doing our best to put flesh on the bare bones of the government's public announcements, so clients can get on and start planning what they need to do with their businesses (and also so they can tell their staff what on earth is happening). All a little exhausting.

Our webinar yesterday on furlough was very popular. It maxed out the IT system, so the entire time I was delivering my very learned thoughts to the world, my screen kept exploding with pop-ups telling me that yet another poor person was trying to join but could not get into the event. I felt like it was the legal webinar equivalent of "your most liked picture form 2020" in Facebook terms. If only my instagram account did as well.

Have a safe and action-filled (who am I kidding?) weekend everyone.


Day 9: Thursday 26 March - by Dónall Breen

Glory be to the internet.

Glory be to the internet. The coming weeks will see an exciting new aspect in running a law firm - how we interact with our clients in a self-isolating appropriate way.

Already it is happening. This week Darren held a webinar on the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in the UK (UK Furlough as it is becoming known) and you can listen to the recording here. And next week we are running a webinar on the Acquired Rights Directive in Europe, see here.
 
Whilst we have done webinars before, and are well used to the format, organising the webinar today at very short notice was refreshingly straight forward. In future, where once we may have had a breakfast seminar or evening talk followed by drinks, we may increasingly start moving towards these online forums to share our knowledge and get to know what our clients are thinking. Virtual chats followed by very real drinks - from home! If you have any suggestions or ideas, let us know.
 
It has worked in the past, it can work going forward. Now all we need have to do is start practising our best radio voice by listening to BBC radio on a regular basis.
 
Helping us manage with all this change are a slew of new colleagues who are increasingly popping up in our conference calls and video chats. Let me introduce some:

Edie - House Cat - An expert in furrlough
Pippin – Cavalier - Pippin works across all areas of employment law but specialises in pawternity leave
Bracken and Luna – Jack Russell and Cocker Spaniel - This dynamic duo job share in our Birmingham office, offering advice on various aspects of food and beverage selection
Freddie – Border Collie - a newly qualified Good Boi, Freddie is currently learning the ropes by chewing them 6/8 hours per day
Maple – House Cat - Maple will call you when she decides you deserve her advice
Jenny – Collie - As one of the more senior members of our team, Jenny has come out of retirement to assist in any way possible but mostly in an emotional support capacity
Bobby and Bruce – Tabbies - Another dynamic duo, these two work closely together to ensure one of them is always napping should a sleeping cat be urgently required
Luna – Weimaraner - Luna likes long walks on the beach, long walks in the forest and long walks in any weather. Luna is praised by her clients for "relentless, unending, bottomless energy"

I am sure there will be even more joining as the time rolls on, but for now I ask you all to join us in warmly welcoming these new additions to our work routine.


Day 8: Wednesday 25 March - by Dónall Breen

The devil is in the detail.

Yesterday we discussed the new government assistance programmes in length. Today we did so again. I feel like this pattern may continue for a while.

The problem with lawyers, is that we love pointing out what the problems are.

No one in their right mind would blame the government for the gaps we are finding in their proposed wage refund scheme. We all know they are doing their best in extraordinarily tight time frames. But when the rubber meets the road, and employers start implementing this, people need to know what they are supposed to be doing.

In other news, gender pay gap reporting has been postponed (see here). Not ideal from a gender equity perspective, but at least it's one less admin item on the to-do list.

On the business side of things, I am pleased to report GQ|Littler is now 'aggressively expanding' across the UK. We have opened offices in Devon, Birmingham and Thames Valley to name but a few. Now, these offices may just be the kitchen of our staff and no visitors are permitted, but we must see the positives where they are. Coincidentally, our central London office is a little quieter than usual.

That's enough for today, I am off to spend my allotted once-a-day outdoor activity dodging my fellow citizens on the pavement and avoiding close contact with anyone. Although, in fairness, I was doing that long before the restrictions came in.


Day 7: Tuesday 24 March - by Darren Isaacs 

This new "furlough" thing is actually quite complicated.

We had our usual Tuesday lunch-time know-how session today. No points for guessing what the main topic of conversation was. 

Get a bunch of employment lawyers in the same room, introduce a discussion about a very new employment law concept (one that is not even reflected in published legislation yet), and you better settle in for the long haul!

There are a tonne of issues to get to the bottom of.

One of the most pressing, and confusing, is this: the UK government has introduced this paid "furlough" scheme under which an employer can put an employee on "furlough" instead of making them redundant, and the employee will get 80% of their pay (up to a cap) paid for by the UK government. Sounds simple enough. However, the whole point of this new scheme is that it is an urgent response to an immediate problem, and it is meant to kick in when the employee would otherwise be made redundant. But in the UK we have a process to go through before selecting an employee for redundancy, and if it is a mass redundancy (20+ proposed redundancies within 90 days) then it is a minimum consultation period of 30 days (20-99 proposed redundancies) or 45 days (100+ proposed redundancies). 

So how do you reconcile an urgent Covid-19 response like the new "furlough" scheme, against minimum consultation periods of up to 45 days? A 45-day consultation period does not say "urgent pandemic response to save my business" to us!!

And not to mention the world of trouble we are in because the UK government has adopted a US term ("furlough") which has a slightly different meaning in the US (i.e. no pay) than it will do here. Explaining that is going to be fun.

We anxiously await the actual regulations (which may have arrived by the time this diary entry is published).


Day 6: Monday 23 March - by Darren Isaacs

Today has been manic. 

So many clients wanting, quite reasonably, urgent HR advice all over Europe. The work would normally be great - the underlying law is interesting and, in many cases, novel (pardon the terrible pun). But behind it all is the reality that a lot of people across the EU (indeed, the entire globe) are facing job losses or at the least dramatic reductions in hours/pay. That is not a cheery thought.

On the "plus" side (as I said in an earlier post if there actually is a "plus" side) it is interesting to see how some EU governments are rallying and providing unprecedented wage support measures. Amazing what can be done in a short space of time if governments really put their minds to it. The economic hangover will be interesting, but for now the alcohol is needed (to de-sanitise of course).

And on a somewhat less "worky" note, we are also wondering what will become of the team now that haircuts are a thing of the past. Especially the men (well, some of them - others don't have to worry about haircuts at the best of times). It can really go either of two ways: Planet of the Apes or Sigourney Weaver in Alien 3. Only time will tell. And on that note, with no professional hair dying let's see people show their true colours!

PS. I perhaps watch too much sci-fi.


Day 5: Friday 20 March - by Dónall Breen

Working with your flatmates - A guide.

Step 1: Choose your office colleagues carefully. Too late, you have chosen to live with these person/people and you must now work together in self isolation for months to come. Is your office colleague the love of your life, or just Matilda from SpareRoom who happened to have a cheap place in Clapham? It doesn't matter. Remember growing up you were told you have to live with the consequences of your decisions? Well, welcome to a real life simulation of that on steroids.

Step 2: Don't sweat the small stuff. Except if it's eating too loudly, tapping feet, or not making you tea. Then sweat that stuff really hard and make a big deal out of it. Then get it out of your system as this is the path you have chosen (see step 1).

Step 3: Be respectful of others' space. Hold on, have you decided to live in London where space means £1,000 per square foot and your 'cosy little hideaway in Angel' now feels like a recurring episode of The Cube? No worries, your dinner table will now become the centre of your entire existence. God bless population pressure.

Step 4: Keep a routine. If you used to take the tube to work, why not cram all the members of the house into a small cupboard and not talk to each other for 40 minutes? Really recreate that commuting experience. If you used to cycle or jog to work, just cut out the middle man and smoke a few cigs in the morning to get that pollution right in.

Step 5: Don't forget to have some fun. Remember as a child when you used to have play dates with your friends and just mess about in the house all day? Tap into that. Build a pillow fort and take a very serious client call from inside it as your other house mates try to break in. If you laugh, you lose.

Step 6: Stop reading this blog. Look across the table, or your corridor, and ask if someone wants to have a cup of tea. Skype your parents. Give your old friend from school a call. Remember, you may be on your own but you are not alone. And when all that is done, take a sigh of relief knowing that next week you can just read sarcastic blogs written by lawyers again to make you feel better about yourself.


Day 4: Thursday 19 March 2020 - by Darren Isaacs

Today was my turn to brave the pandemic and head into the office.

As mentioned in an earlier post, we are relying on one brave partner each day to get into the office "just in case". The "just in case" part really just refers to opening the front door if someone knocks on it (with gloves on, and then standing well back).

The land mail is still coming and, being the paranoid lawyer-types that we are, we can't help but to worry that if someone is not in the office it will be the one day something super urgent and very important arrives by hand (sod's law and all that). Today though I only had three pieces of correspondence turn up - a phone bill, a bank statement, and a lovely set of cufflinks from the International Bar Association (a gift as a thank you for renewing my membership). Not sure it was entirely worth risking life and limb for, but at least I will sleep better tonight.

As I sit here by myself, this has now got me thinking about one of my favourite shows, The Walking Dead - a leader in the zombie apocalypse genre before all the million other zombie apocalypse shows tried to get in on the action. If memory serves me correctly, which it rarely does, I do not think they have had a single stressed-out lawyer as one of the show's main stars. How can that possibly be? Surely, with all the other characters out chopping off zombie heads, what they really need for balance is to focus on the lone lawyer character back at the fort, head down, toiling away on his or her laptop to get that latest advice out, and wondering when the land mail will turn up. Now that would be a show worth watching.


Day 3: Wednesday 18 March 2020 - by Darren Isaacs

Video killed the radio star.

We had our latest all-hands team meeting this morning by video call. Microsoft Teams, as it happens, and quite nifty software it is (note to self: if we become influencers we should be adding #ad somewhere, and taking a glamorous selfie, but then also if we become influencers we will not be lawyers having boring lawyer conference calls in the first place).

Anyway, it worked out fine. For now, quite a novelty. It’s not that we haven’t done video-calling before (we are lawyers, so not known for our tech skills, but nonetheless we did climb the video calling hill a long time ago). It’s just that we have not rolled it out for regular 20+ person chats from home previously, so that was new territory. One of the unexpected delights is seeing how our colleagues live and which room they work from, as well as what they wear when working from home. Plus, the added middle-class thrill of identifying which Farrow & Ball colour our more sophisticated colleagues have painted their walls (hats off to our partner Sophie, who has opted for Cornforth White – a lovely shade indeed).

Aside from that voyeuristic 15 minutes, the rest of the day has been relatively calm. In a massive shock to absolutely no one, we have seen a dramatic uptick in advice requests of how to deal with employees given a pending Covid-induced economic meltdown. Can we reduce their working hours? Can we pay less? Can we temporarily send them home without pay (“furlough” to our US friends)? And so forth. Depressing, but only to be expected.

On the 'plus' side (and I am really stretching the concept of a 'plus side' here), we woke up this morning to learn that the government is pushing back its "IR35" changes for a year (trust me - thrilling news if you know what "IR35" is), and the UK's Information Commissioner (our GDPR watchdog) has issued some common-sense useful guidance on Covid-19 issues. We are hearing that the French regulator is not *quite* as flexible, but c'est la vie as they say...

On the office front, we had one partner bravely turn up for watch duty. London City is quiet, but not as dead as we had expected by now. A bit like we would expect on a lovely bank holiday Monday in summer. We hope he found at least one Pret a Manger open for a sandwich (served with blue latex gloves, #obv).


Day 2: Tuesday 17 March 2020 - by Dónall Breen

What do we do now?

They say the second stage of grief is anger, once the denial subsides. We are now in this strange limbo where the denial is indeed eroding but what it leaves behind is not so much anger - but bafflement. Lawyers don't like to be baffled, this is very new territory for us.

Our working from home systems are quickly established. We all tended to work flexibly anyway so it was more small adjustments, like informing the dog that he will now have to share his house with us more often. At 9.30am we all log in to a video call, 22 faces far too close to webcams talking about next steps and practical issues. And then, nothing. Bafflement.

We all independently stare inboxes as it dawns on us that this is the new normal. For those who live with friends and family, their company is small respite from the idea that a whole chunk of one's social life - the workplace - is gone.

As today is St Patrick's Day, I don a novelty green hat for the briefing. A passing lorry driver beeped his horn and gave me a wave through the window. No parades, no cheeky midday Guinness, no flying home for a weekend of craic. But a friendly little wave helped me realise that there is still a whole world out there, even if it's self-isolating right now. Then I realise he wasn't waving at me but angrily beeping at the car in front and shaking his fist in anger. Oh London, never change.

Over the coming hours the green shoots of a new normal begin to emerge. An afternoon coffee break is arranged to take place by video conference. Before shooting off an email to a colleague I think twice and pick up the phone. Then I do something unthinkable. I turn on my webcam for a brief, internal chat. Bafflement as the partner stares back at me. We then quickly realise this little slice of human contact is going to be necessary. And I really need to shave.

So, as we work our way through the stages of grief, mourning for the world as it was prior to the global pandemic, it is not anger we are feeling here. And thank goodness for that.


Day 1: Monday 16 March 2020 - by Darren Isaacs

And so it begins...

The world has gone to hell in a handbasket. A month ago we were all so happy to finally stop talking about Brexit (mostly). We had lived and breathed it for three years and frankly, we were done. On to better times. Oh how naïve we were. Now, we look back fondly and yearn for those days when all we had to worry about was the “Irish backstop” (not that anyone really understood it, anyway).

So here we are, Covid-ageddon.

Today started out as “business as normal” in the office. Well, kind of. Not really. But in any case by lunchtime we had, reluctantly (but sensibly), come to the conclusion that we should go into lockdown like every other business in London. So lockdown it is. Or, rather, working from home. We will have one senior person in the office each day, under strict hygiene instructions and surrounded by enough sanitary gel to recreate the set of “The Blob”.

As we each wipe down our entire desk areas (hygiene, again, you understand) and prepare to turn the office lights out (with a glove) we are wondering when we will next see a happy, chatty, lawyer-filled office…