Stay Alert, Control Anxiety and Save Firms

One of the silver linings in recent weeks has been the opportunity to listen to things that one may not have had the time to do before – and in the company of people who now have the time to reflect on such matters.

I was on a webinar recently, very kindly hosted by Legal Geek, and Richard Susskind, who you must have heard of, was talking about the 5 stages we will be encountering during this current COVID-19 period. He and Daniel Susskind wrote on this topic, and I have, with thanks to them, adapted their thoughts for this piece.

Who really knows what will happen, but he did bring a calm confidence to the subject, which was mildly re-assuring? We might view what we are going through as consisting of five stages.

save law firms

Stage 1 has been mobilisation – we have all just done this. From office to home in one bound – five years of change and transformation swallowed within five weeks.

A victory for pragmatism versus caution, expediency beating a greater shade of doom.

I wonder how many levels of reticence were leaped, and how much conservatism was put to one side, as firms recognised, they needed to act quickly to keep their businesses, and their flow of communication moving.

It does seem that we have survived in one shape or form – not ideal of course, but we have adapted well, and we live to fight another day.

Stage 2 is the lockdown – that sadly is still enduring. This may go on for some time, and we are experiencing another tug of war – health versus wealth. Now, there is a philosophical challenge made real. The debate will be a very difficult one, and the choices are stark. Sensitivity and great care are needed, and the balance between our vulnerable ones, and the future of us and our younger ones is a delicate balance.

During this time, we will initially be very inefficient, loss-making, and will find it difficult to adapt – but slowly, our new world becomes real. We will grasp how to use those technologies we have resisted and avoided, we will find ways to engage with staff and our clients. Tough decisions on our overhead base, our payroll and our values will be made. 

Those who will gain the most are those who retain their core values whilst embracing the necessity of change.

Stage 3 is our current and developing debate – emergence. This looks like it will be a ping-pong event depending on what policies are adopted and what guidelines are followed. Too much release and we are back in lockdown, too little, and we never emerge. Stay at home, go to work, keep distant, get a little closer, but not too close, open up, close down…. Phew!

It is quite likely that as we emerge, the clear impact of some over-exuberance will give rise to a return to some restrictions, and this is probably going to be a very frustrating phase.

However, stage 4 will emerge soon enough, and that will be the surge.  Just as there is little doubt that this quarter will be a nightmare, then one of the following two quarters will be a boom, as economic activity recovers. This will not be your traditional recession – in fact, Brexit aside, the economy was in fair shape as 2020 started, and there is clearly a massive pent-up demand.

Those who will gain will be those who have shown their true and positive colours during stages 2 and 3. Actions and attitudes will be recognised and those who looked after their staff as well as they could, and their clients throughout these next months will find that loyalty rewarded.

Focus on core values, on truly engaged communication across the spectrum of our relationships, and of keeping belief in a positive outcome will be amongst the qualities we need to show now.

Then stage 5 – the new equilibrium.  Normal is not the right word, as what can we ever call normal? We will certainly return to a way of life that we are more familiar with, and there may be some fundamental changes, or more likely some nuanced ones. The use of technology will accelerate and the reliance on traditional physical resources will change.

There will undoubtedly be a greater comfort in using some of our new-found uses for technologies that have been around for some time, there may be a lower dependence on property and offices, and certainly, there will be some new ways of working that will benefit us all.

So, what to do – well, something to think about and to weave into your changing strategy.

This may be one of the areas in which the phrase ‘stay alert’ has some true meaning.

Stay alert, control anxiety, save firms – as they say.

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