It is undeniable that the coronavirus pandemic has been an unprecedented time for all. As a trainee solicitor, it is safe to say that our recent experiences working from home have been far from the atypical training contract.

At Beale & Co, trainees benefit from sharing an office with a partner, which offers invaluable exposure to interaction with clients, as well as developing a wider understanding of both strategic and commercial concerns when undertaking legal work. One new challenge for a trainee is replicating this learning opportunity whilst working remotely.

We have found that it is useful and increasingly common across the firm for colleagues to communicate via Microsoft Teams prior to virtual meetings with clients or to discuss discrete tasks. Although this is of course no replica for face-to-face interaction, it means that trainees continue to have opportunities to discuss legal matters with colleagues and to develop knowledge.

Lockdown has also led to new challenges with common trainee tasks, such as preparation for hearings, mediations or disclosure tasks. It has been especially important to consider practical challenges such as whether it is possible to prepare hard copy files whilst working at home and whether instead, it is pertinent to negotiate extensions or variations to agreements. These are challenges which simply did not exist prior to Covid-19.

There are of course many benefits to working at home which have become more and more apparent in recent months. For example, for those with long commutes it means time saved on travel, there is increased flexibility in working hours and as a consequence, more time to spend with family or friends. All of these things are likely to contribute to positive mental well-being, which will in turn increase productivity and efficiency.

Beale & Co has proactively addressed the challenges which the lockdown has presented to all of its staff, and recognises the specific difficulties which trainees could face. To combat these potential issues a range of initiatives have been introduced, which include:

Trainee Presentations

Before the lockdown, Beale & Co organised regular presentations to assist trainee development. Typically, a partner or a solicitor would facilitate discussion on an area of law or a recent case of particular importance. Beale & Co has ensured that these presentations have continued, despite the lockdown.

Communicating with your colleagues in lockdown can be challenging, so ensuring that these trainee presentations have continued has provided us with another way to stay in touch with other fee earners, as well as to continue to learn from them.

Our Training Partner, Ian Masser, has also organised a series of external training seminars. These seminars, often carried out by chambers, have covered a range of different areas of law, including adjudication, drafting skills and tips for instructing counsel.

These virtual training sessions have been incredibly useful and have provided trainees with a unique opportunity to liaise with barristers who are experts in their field.

Weekly competitions

Outside of law, Beale & Co has introduced weekly competitions for all members of the firm to get involved in. These competitions have ranged from 'The Great British Beales Bake Off for Pride' to sending in pictures of our cutest pets.

The firm is continuously thinking of new ways to virtually socialise during the lockdown, most recently introducing a book club and a premier league football competition.

These competitions and initiatives have been a great way for us to all keep in touch and keep spirits high.

Wellness initiatives

Beale & Co also has a 'Wellness Wednesday' programme that was created to support and promote the mental and physical wellbeing of the firm. There has been a number of events run through this programme from workshops to workouts.

The firm has ensured that the Wellness programme has adapted to the lockdown circumstances and recognises the importance of staying active. The firm has therefore been running a number of weekly virtual exercise classes. These classes have been incredibly varied, ranging from yoga to full body workouts.

There has also been firm wide virtual social events, including a video call for Mental Health Awareness Week. As a trainee, it is great to know that these wellness initiatives are available.

Team events

Beale & Co has allocated fee-earners into a number of different groups for weekly video calls. This has been a useful initiative for trainees, as it provides the chance for us to communicate with members of the firm that we may not usually work with. It has really helped to ensure that the social aspect of working at Beale & Co remains, even if we are not able to see each other in person.

We also have weekly trainee meetings with our training partner. In these meetings, we can raise any thoughts and ideas we may have in respect to our training experience at this time. In particular, it is great to know we have a regular opportunity to share any feedback or concerns.

As a trainee, there was initial concerns with respect to our development when the lockdown was announced, as we learn so much from our colleagues. Beale & Co, however, has tackled this challenge successfully by adapting its training methods and social initiatives to ensure that the lockdown has not affected our training.

It has been great to be a part of a firm which really cares about the development of its staff and has adapted successfully to the unprecedented working environment presented by lockdown.

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