As lockdown eases will the Astraea team be returning to the office?

Matt Reynolds
…Or will working from home be an option for staff and how has our technology evolved during the past year?
Astraea Legal was already an agile, digital business prior to the pandemic. We utilised IT to allow flexible working between our office, home, court, police stations and client’s businesses.   So when the first lockdown hit, albeit things quietened down for a while, it was effectively business as usual.  However, when we acquired Linskills in October 2020, we faced the challenge of taking over a 40-year-old practice, still reliant on paper files and that didn’t have the ability for fee earners to work remotely.
It was obvious that more lockdowns were imminent and although classed as essential workers, it was imperative that we protected both our staff, our clients  and the business itself from the effects of Covid and mandatory self-isolation, while still providing an excellent level of service to our clients.  To that end, we invested heavily in IT hardware for the new team and implemented training and new systems to allow all fee earning staff to work remotely. This allowed us to conduct a great deal of court advocacy, client conferences and representation at the police station via video conferencing. That also meant that those support staff who we required to be in the office could be adequately socially distanced within that space, while able to communicate seamlessly with the rest of the team.
The use of cloud-based case management systems meant that we were able to repurpose secretarial staff to fee earning and administrative roles based from home, creating greater efficiencies. In the last 6 months we have taken on 19 new staff members, expanded into the areas of commercial and commercial property, moved offices and managed two external audits, all while increasing productivity.   Furthermore, our staff tell us that they are much happier with the current working model, that is more family friendly and cuts out unnecessary commuting.
As the lockdown eases, I expect that this mixed model of working will continue to an extent. We are extremely fortunate to have an experienced, resilient and hard-working team who have responded rapidly and positively to change.  The team  have demonstrated that they can work to a very high standard and fully service our clients, whether working from home or in the office.   I expect that subject to the needs of the business,  flexible working and in some cases, full home working will continue.
I can only imagine that if this dreadful pandemic had not happened and we had had to put in place plans to go from a paper to digital practice, invest in the IT infrastructure, repurpose staff and make changes to the firm’s culture, systems and working practices, it would have been maybe a year or two to get to  the position that we have done within a relatively short space of time in the face of Covid.  We have managed to grow our team, streamline our practices and provide what appears to be a very happy, healthy, work life balance for our team – which for Astraea Legal has to be a Covid success story.

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