Reed Smith is a dynamic international law firm, dedicated to helping clients move their businesses forward through speedy resolution of complex disputes, transactions, and regulatory matters. Reed Smith’s global footprint spans oceans and continents, with their largest office in London and more than 350 lawyers serving international and domestic clients. Reed Smith is also one of our partner organisations and coordinates a work experience programme in the Summer and a mentoring programme in the Autumn for Year 12 and Year 13 students.
Two employees, Carole Mehigan and Terry Prempeh, from Reed Smith joined us for a live Q&A on how work is changing during the COVID-19 lockdown. They answered a range of questions about working during the lockdown through remote working and how they have approached the crisis. They also answered questions on how the current situation is affecting work experience opportunities.
Carole is the Responsible Business Manager for Reed Smith, in charge of managing, organising and hosting Reed Smith’s charitable activities.
Terry Prempeh is a Trainee Solicitor, starting his training contract, working in the banking and finance team. Terry has just finished two years of law school after graduating with a degree in Theology and Philosophy at the University of Durham.
How has work changed for the organisation and other like organisations?
Carole: As a law firm, we’ve been very proactive since Reed Smith went into lockdown as a global firm. We are a firm of 30 offices globally, just over half of our offices are based in the US and the rest spread across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. A week before the government guidance, our senior management took the proactive decision to request our people to work remotely for the safety and well-being of the Reed Smith employees.
For me, it was important to have a routine and to have an area at home I could call my work area (that has my work phone and my laptop) that is separate from my living quarters. So I know when I finish work, I can walk away. I also set my alarm for the same time every morning, I get showered and dressed, have a coffee, and I come down to my area of work – and that’s now my new commute!
I think it’s also important to note that we can easily over-work during this time, it’s easy to do a 10-12 hour day by doing an extra hour or two per day. That’s something we need to be aware of because if we continuously do that, it could affect your mental health and well-being.
How are work experience programmes impacted as a result of COVID-19 Lockdown?
Carole: It’s been a complete curveball for work experience and any programmes that require face to face contact. I’ve had to sit back and review quite a lot, and it’s given me some clarity that we all need back up plans.
I’ve very much been looking into virtual work experience. Logistically thinking, I’m looking at possibly doing a virtual work experience programme with a view that we can run similar programmes with charity partners in the future. My goal is to have a work experience programme physically in the office before the year is out; however, social distancing will likely still be paramount.
I am thinking about doing a bit of both, part virtual and part one day or two-day visit. I am hoping to host an ‘in the office’ work experience by the end of the year.
What is it like working remotely early on in a job? (Terry is three weeks into his training contract at Reed Smith)
Terry: Working from home was really scary at first. Trainees, within a law firm, are the one group of people who often need to be in the office for various reasons. The thing about Reed Smith is that we’re really adaptable, so really quickly we all got over that hurdle of being daunted about working from home. Now, I very much feel supported in my role, virtually! So I have virtual calls, virtual meetings, and a lot of the work I do I’ll send it through to supervisors and other people in my team to check it. The instructions I get given are over the phone and over Skype.
The work side is very strange right now, and we have a lot of clients who are battling through some difficult times. We are also getting used to the new set up, and it’s changed how we do our work. As time goes on, I am finding it a bit easier to do the job, maybe just a bit harder to live your life!
How do you stay motivated and manage your workload during the lockdown?
Terry: Making sure you still have a work-life balance, so I’m having video calls with friends, family and colleagues. These types of things raise your spirits and help things to feel as normal as they can.
Find time to chill and watch Netflix, but also keep doing the extra professional things you’re doing. So the fact that you guys are at this webinar right now and you’re interested in your future career puts you ahead of the curve. You have an advantage, time!
Carole: I encourage you to set yourself a routine so you can have a good work-life balance, which is something I’ve done so that I can still perform my job to the best of my ability!
Setting an alarm, getting up at the same time – they sound like silly things, but they do make a difference. Don’t forget to take breaks, go for a walk or have a snack because it helps you feel balanced.
Also, I advise you to take this extra time to research different law firms, attend webinars, and check out what The Brokerage has to offer, really get involved in everything that they’re offering. Utilise your time well!