“I have witnessed Law firm owners breaking down”: solicitor Joanne Tyler reveals the realities of Covid-19 for legal practices amid conveyancing boom and falling house prices

Published by Joanne Tyler on January 19th 2021, 12:12pm

Joanne Tyler, owner and director of eponymous solicitors’ practice Tyler Law, has been active in the legal profession for almost twenty years. During the summer of 2020, Joanne featured as part of the Leaders Council podcast series and spoke about how her early anticipation of a UK lockdown had enabled her business to adequately prepare. Yet, as the pandemic continues to wear on, even the rollout of a working vaccine has provided little respite for business as the government has enforced a third national lockdown in England and similar restrictions have come into force in the devolved nations. Writing for the Leaders Council, Joanne reflects on what impact the pandemic has continued to have on businesses in the legal profession since August, what must be done to protect a wilting housing market and the employment that it generates, before sharing her thoughts on how regulations around self-isolation for those entering the UK must change.

Following on from my podcast in 2020 with Sir Geoff Hurst, the last few months have proven to be extremely challenging for all people in the UK, not just business owners. During the first lockdown, the housing market was effectively forgotten, closed and not really able to move. After the first lockdown, we were provided with a much-needed boost from the stamp duty holiday issued by the Government. It has been the case for both myself and many professional colleagues this year that we have witnessed and been part of a yo-yo effect from zero to 150 miles per hour. This has come at a time, where we have been forced to find different ways to work, protect staff, protect clients and protect our businesses. Solicitors, have had to deal with the boom in conveyancing, while many staff at firms are still furloughed but with little understanding from the general public of the pressure that can be placed upon the individual.

I have regrettably witnessed Law firm owners breaking down on the phone because they cannot cope or being extremely volatile, having to support clients and take abuse because their nerves are frayed. Staff, have also had to support those people who have lost loved ones due to Covid 19 and had to assist them in their hour of need. Elsewhere, we have seen a multitude of suicides. Thousands of people are losing their jobs. I have had many fee earners in chains either leave the conveyancing market completely due to the pressure of y work and Covid 19, or many of them move from legal practice to legal practice where they feel more supported during this time.

The real toll and cost of Covid 19, cannot just be felt and measured in the daily death or infection toll or financial toll, it is the mental and emotional long-term cost, which will hinder the ability of this Country and its businesses to bounce back. Many people’s lives are either becoming decimated, or mentally, they are burnt out or frayed at the edges. As a business owner it is terrifying to see your work drop or stop overnight due to new tiered measures or full lockdowns. We have all now put in place contingency plans [or should have] and even some of those business that have planned as much as they possibly can, will not survive, which is the sad truth.

The housing market is one of the cornerstones of the UK economy and supports subsidiary businesses such as estate agents, conveyancers, lenders, insurance companies, retail, DIY, construction, and self-employed tradespeople. Everything that can be done to boost the housing market must be carried out, in order to protect all of these industries and the jobs they create. The stamp duty holiday must be extended until at least the end of May, since it must be recognised that the national lockdown, tiered measures and Covid infections have all caused delays. It cannot be expected for the Government to close the Country but still maintain this stamp duty deadline. Of course, there is an economic argument, but the Country needs to get out of this pandemic first, immunise the population, and then look to how the debt is repaid. Now is not the time for a counting of coins. In relative terms, many businesses have had to take the same gamble in taking out Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme [CBILS] loans on the basis that they will still exist once this pandemic has passed, to be able to repay that debt.

No matter how pressurised I feel, I am taking extra time to find the humanity in just a conversation with someone on the phone and take the time to really listen and speak to them, to try to understand what the other person is going through. To find the commonality of what we are all going through. To do something as simple as to thank someone. I have on social media praised other firms for the good job they have done or are doing, rather than just pump out what is great about my firm. It is important to let everyone know they are appreciated and have a sense of worth. I am not worrying about the bigger picture at the moment, but rather worrying about the here and now, the next job, the next hurdle. There will be a time to worry about the bigger picture, but it is taking each day as it comes which is the priority for now.

Lastly, I feel that we have to introduce greater regulation on isolating those people travelling to the UK, and since this is a forced measure, the individual travelling must pay for the costs of isolation and testing rather than the UK taxpayer. We are an Island and can easily do this while the vaccines roll out and we think of the longer-term picture ahead of next winter. The internal markets must be allowed to open and work while any ability to re-infect the population is contained as per the models shown in Australia and New Zealand. It is not tenable to expect the NHS or businesses to keep going, mentally, emotionally, and financially: everyone needs consistency. The wider world is in exactly the same position and the travel corridors, as they are, are not working.

Photo by brut carniollus on Unsplash

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Authored By

Joanne Tyler
Director at Tyler Law
January 19th 2021, 12:12pm

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