To understand more about the impact of COVID-19 on our clients and the local Brighton community, we have decided to ask them some questions.

Next up we have David Edwards, Managing Director at Burt Brill & Cardens Solicitors, a historic Brighton Firm who have been providing expert legal advice to individuals and commercial clients for over 125 years.

When did COVID-19 affect your business and was it immediate or gradual?

We were tracking COVID-19 as it developed at the outset of the year. In March, when the situation in the UK started to look increasingly serious, we had already implemented measures to protect our staff. We arranged for some members of staff to work from home, and created procedures to ensure maximum cleanliness around the office.

Our clients were voicing their concerns about the situation even before the Stay at Home Rules were announced on 23 March. Our priority was to monitor the situation as closely as possible and react in the most appropriate manner, to protect both our staff and client’s best interests and welfare.

Although we had systems in place to pre-empt an emergency, even we were impressed with the speed and ease with which we were able to get our staff set up to work in full capacity from home. We believe that our success was a result of having strong technical procedures, a very good relationship with our suppliers, and a savvy work-force with a can-do attitude.

How did you communicate this impact with your team and clients?

We kept staff fully informed as we navigated the changing tide of COVID-19. When Mr Johnson announced the lockdown measures, our management team responded immediately. We worked together to inform various members of staff how they would be equipped to work from home. We were operating as usual within 24 hours.

The smooth transition to home working, and the fact that our fee earners were equipped to function fully, meant that our clients’ needs were met. As a team we have had to be flexible in how we communicate with our clients, but fortunately the main obstacles we have had to work with have been how COVID-19 has affected society as a whole, and not our own provision of legal services.

What decisions have you had to take in respect of your business?

We were making decisions to protect the safety of our staff and clients prior to the announcement of the Stay at Home Rules. This involved a combination of Health & Safety procedures to ensure social distancing and hygiene, and assessing which members of staff needed to work from home.

Have you accessed or will you be accessing any of the Government support schemes and grants?

Unlike shops and restaurants we have work already underway that takes time to complete. The Government schemes are helpful and we continue to keep matters under review.

What effect will this pandemic have your business in the long term?

The swift move to home working has provided us with the opportunity to think creatively about issues that we were already striving to resolve. We have been putting targets on our use of paper for some time now; suffice to say that working from home has encouraged staff more than ever to reduce their paper use! The pandemic has shed light on just how tech-savvy our staff are, and how we can provide outstanding legal services to our clients whilst working from home, which is a relatively new concept to many Law Firms.

Internally, our team has never been closer, although technically we have been working apart. We have implemented team calls twice a day; one in the morning to check in and discuss the day ahead, and one in the afternoon before we finish work for the day. These calls have given many of us the chance to learn more about our colleagues and provided a new way for us to collaborate.

Do you have a crisis management plan now in place?

We have always had business continuity plans. Our latest one had been developed relatively recently, which meant that we were so well equipped to deal with the lockdown.

Interestingly, our Directors had planned for a hypothetical event in which our staff may not have access to the building. While our Directors could never have foreseen COVID-19, their planning for the event that staff may not be able to access the office meant that we were ahead of the curve.

What decisions are being made now for when you are able to get back up and running?

Thankfully, we have been up and running fully throughout the lockdown.

How do you think the business landscape will change in Brighton?

As large open-plan offices fall out of favour, it is undisputable that we will see more people than ever work from home. Many of our residents who usually commute to London will now remain in the city while they work from home. As lockdown eases, an even more agile work-force can only benefit towns and cities like ours, with great independent shops and businesses.

While many of our residents will be spending lunchbreaks and weekends in the city, we will likely see a rise in tourists too. Many people have said that they will be opting for a “staycation” rather than going abroad. Classic seaside towns like ours will benefit from this.

What tips can you give other businesses currently going through the crisis?

Don’t shy away from hard decisions. Ensure your staff are fully equipped to provide your clients the services they need. Keep a triangle in mind, and try your best to maintain the three way balance between clients, staff, and business.

Author: David Edwards, Managing Director @ Burt Brill & Cardens

Date Published: 17 June 2020