Yellow Folder Interview Series: Felicity Pantelidis – Deputy CEO, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

 

Given the challenges we’ve all experienced during 2020 and now in 2021, Yellow Folder wanted to reach out to a number of executives to understand how COVID-19 has impacted their businesses, their teams, and their ways of working.

In this fifth interview, we spoke with Felicity Pantelidis, Deputy Chief Executive Officer – Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who has seen the adoption of digital services accelerate as a result of the new reality of remote working.  

 

 

Question (Yellow Folder): How are you dealing with the snap lockdowns that are continuing to occur across Australia?

Answer (Felicity Pantelidis): “Consumer legal services have transitioned well to lockdowns. We have continued to progress the matters for clients even when our offices have been closed and face-to-face meetings not possible. Our legal teams now have the workflow tools they need both at home and in the office to service our clients while working in a hybrid way.

At the start of the first lockdown in 2020, we had to pivot very quickly from having 1,100 staff onsite to working from home. We have offices in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, the ACT and Western Australia, and each one of these states has had different government restrictions in place.

However, thanks to a great technology setup we were able to transition relatively smoothly to working from home. We now have repeatable processes in place for lockdowns, which means that the work for our clients does not stop whenever and wherever they happen.”

Q: What changes have you made to the business to cope with COVID-19 and unexpected situations like the current lockdowns? 

A: “We have centralised a lot of things such as mail services. Most of our documents are now digital and online, which means we can transact work quickly for clients and keep things moving. We have a core essential workforce that helps continue to progress client matters, but the main thing is ensuring everyone has a set up for when they’re in the office, as well as a home set up. We did that early on in April last year.”

Q: How has the COVID-19 situation affected access to legal services for your clients?

A: “In terms of access, the industry has transitioned very well. The nature of the work is transactional and can be done by electronic documents. When clients have needed it, we have pivoted to phone and video appointments.

Q: How have Maurice Blackburn’s leaders adapted to COVID-19 driven changes in what are likely to be more traditional ways of working? 

A: “COVID-19 has forced us to more be more deliberate about how we collaborate with colleagues. Our teams have frequent virtual meetings and managers are having more regular check-ins with their staff in a way that may not have been the case before the pandemic. We really have seen communication increase considerably in a very positive way, and not only on the work front – there is a real sense of people wanting to reach out to others just to make sure they are okay.”

Q: What have been your biggest successes during the pandemic?

A: “Our biggest success is that we can transact work for clients while working remotely, which has been made possible by technology. For the legal industry, which has traditionally been very slow to change, COVID-19 has accelerated the uptake and adoption of new ways of working: electronic files, electronic briefings and courts transitioning to online hearings all mean clients can continue to access legal services during lockdowns.

Q: What about challenges you’ve had to overcome?

A: “There has been an adjustment period for staff moving to hybrid working. As a firm we have really focussed on taking care of our people and their mental health. A lot of the conversations that our legal staff have with clients can be emotionally taxing, so we have prioritised managers regularly checking-in with each member of their team one-on-one to make they are getting the support they need.

The results from our recent employee engagement survey were very positive, indicating that the communication we’ve been doing has been helpful and people are feeling connected to the business.”

Q: What are your priorities for the next 6 – 12 months? 

A: “Our main priority is continuing to deliver great services to clients no matter what the uncertain future throws at us. We are also really focused on opportunities to improve how we deliver legal services to clients in the digital age.”

 

 

The Yellow Folder team would like to thank Felicity very much for her insights, and wish Maurice Blackburn Lawyers much continued success as we all continue to navigate through these uncertain times.