Whilst the government implores us all to get back to the office, the reality is that for the majority of law firms, working from home for much of the week is going to continue for the foreseeable future. Covid cases are rising and law firms are in no rush to bring employees back to their desks – it is estimated that only 10% of City solicitors are currently working in the office.
There’s little doubt that appearing on TV is potentially one of those important points in a lawyer’s career. Do it well and you will have come across as knowledgeable, professional and eloquent and receive pats on the back from the managing partner or CEO. Do it badly and you at best you come across as inept. At worst you risk damaging the reputation of the firm you work for and potentially losing your job.
As we all know communications and brand reputation are vital components during a time of crisis, and I was recently interviewed by Ben Curle at Ambition, about how law firms have been communicating during the pandemic.
The country’s largest law firms are providing clients with plenty of advice on the legal implications of the Covid-19 crisis but doing little to explain their own response, both the impact on staff and how they are supporting their communities in dealing with it. We reviewed the websites of the top 200 law firms and found that 159 had dedicated sections on the legal implications of the pandemic, including 92 of the top 100. A quarter of the firms provided multi-media resources, such as webinars and podcasts, on top of articles.
With the lockdown continuing into a second month, we are all getting more used to the new set up, working from home, juggling childcare and isolating ourselves from those outside our household. At the same time, the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis is really starting to bite for the legal profession with reports that the larger law firms are reducing partner drawings, asking staff to take pay cuts, furloughing and in some cases making redundancies.
People say a crisis brings out the very best and the very worst in people – but it has also been the case for brands. From 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore raising £27million (at the time of writing) by doing laps of his garden, to our NHS heroes risking their lives every day to save lives, there are people who are so brave you can’t help but marvel at them. Then there are the brands that get it so wrong that they have managed to turn the coronavirus crisis into their own crisis communications scenario.
Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold there have been many examples of businesses in the spotlight for the way they have responded to the outbreak. My colleagues have written several blogs examining the good, the bad and the ugly and I am sure there will be more examples as organisations grapple with how to respond to an ever-changing situation.
We often find ourselves advising our clients that communication is necessary, not just in the good times, and the times of success, but also during the challenging times. And this is certainly one of the most challenging times any of us have faced. In the absence of the reassurance that we all so desperately crave right now, what is it we expect in the communications from the companies we deal with? Empathy, warmth, solidarity, something that feels like a virtual hug?
The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented crisis requiring us all to make huge changes to our lives. Now more than ever, employers need to think about the wellbeing of their staff and the role internal communications has to play. Poor or unclear internal communications can have hugely negative implications for an already anxious workforce.
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