A day in the life of: lawyer in lockdown

Like many organisations, we are still working from home as much as possible. Our legal team have been told that we should expect to be one of the last to return to the office because we are doing ‘so well’ from home. Now I would dispute that analysis, given how fragmented the team has become, how little sleep I am getting and how my mental health has been taking something of a nose dive. But needs must, and all that, and ‘well’ is a relative term, after all.


My day starts when my alarm goes off, and cat critic comes in for a morning snuggle. We lie there for a while, thinking about the day ahead. After a few minutes, I will start to feel my computer calling me and get up and get ready (of course I’m not working in my pyjamas) and get settled in my home office. Cat critic chooses a comfy place from which to watch, and judge, me as I work.

My first job is always to go through my emails. I work late, yet it appears the rest of my team, and most of my clients, are early risers, so if there are only a dozen emails waiting for me when my computer starts up at 9.02, we’re having a good day.

I go through and flag for follow up anything I need to action, then file anything that is just for information. Next I check to see what meetings I have in my calendar for the day, and note if any of them are set to be by video so I can make sure my hair is decent and I am wearing my ‘grown up’ clothes, not a Disney t-shirt.

At the moment, I am working with our learning and development team to design some training from practitioners on the Mental Capacity Act and deprivation of liberty. A draft of the elearning package has been sent to me to review, after the DoLS manager and I effectively re-wrote the version that was purchased from the virtual catalogue. I go back through it to check that all remnants of pre-Cheshire West thinking have been removed. The original package basically suggested that people were only deprived of their liberty if they tried to leave and we both just wanted to scream. Thankfully, it looks much better now.

I am also involved with reviewing our admissions policy and hospital discharge arrangements and this is keeping me quite busy at the moment. In addition to making sure that the policy aligns with the latest government guidance and complies with our Care Act obligations, we are also having to spend a lot of time making sure we are allowing for proper use of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 by, for example, not assuming that it will always be in a person’s best interests to have a test for coronavirus before admission or that anyone necessarily has the power to administer such a test to someone who will require restraint whilst the test is administered.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, it is also my job to advise the client on whether the policy complies with general public law principles such as rationality and transparency. This can include making sure that the proper process has been followed, with appropriate consultation with interested parties and the correct internal approvals in place. Luckily I have already given advice on most of this, so today all I have to do is read through and check that my comments have been incorporated and no amendments made by others create legal issues.

Then it’s time for another check to make sure I have no urgent emails to respond to, before logging out for my lunch break. One of the team members I supervise has emailed to ask me what advice they should give on a safeguarding enquiry that a social worker has contacted us about, so I call them to talk them through it before cat critic and I head downstairs for some food and cat critic has a good roll around on the patio in the (patchy) sunshine.

After some lunch and throwing a ball around for cat critic (yes, he is a cat who thinks he is a dog), I head back upstairs.

There is a witness statement due on one of my Court of Protection cases at the end of the week, and the social worker has sent me his first draft. I go through it and suggest where we need more information or where the evidence isn’t clear, check the exhibits etc and generally make sure it’s the kind of statement that will convince the judge that we actually know what we’re doing.

Before I finish that, my phone goes off. One of the social workers I work with has had a complaint come in a out an assessment they have conducted. It isn’t a formal complaint (yet) but the social worker is concerned that this might lead to a formal complaint and/or legal action. So I start of by reminding them the scope of ombudsman and judicial review challenges i.e. it’s not about merits, but about the decision-making process. Then we talk through the process followed and go through the key records together to see if there is any evidence of a problem so that when the social worker meets with the family next week, they can discuss anything they have missed and try to move forwards. We talk a lot about the evidence available, and the importance of clear, reasoned decision-making.

With that social worker feeling much more confident, I finish reviewing the statement and send my comments over to the social worker who wrote it, for him to redraft as he chooses. It is, as I regularly remind the social workers I work with, his statement, not mine and so there is no value whatsoever in me adding wording if the doesn’t think it is appropriate or accurate.

It’s getting towards the end of the day when I finish that, and my husband is back from work and hovering nearby to curb my workaholic tendencies. Cat critic is curled up in my husband’s arms, because he has a clear favourite and we all know it, and they have become a masterful double act when it comes to being enforcers of the all important work life balance.

So I make sure my filing is up to date, because my motto is that I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, so I try never to log off with my files in a state that another member of the team couldn’t easily pick them up. Of course, I barely leave the house at the moment so getting hit by a bus is very unlikely, but having had to pick up others’ files urgently before, I’ve decided this is a good habit. Nothing fuels stress like trying to find a witness statement on a file when none of the documents are called ‘witness statement’.

Then I log off, and starting cooking a meal for husband and I. I find cooking is a great way to switch my brain out of ‘work mode’ and enable us to spend some time together when I am mentally there, rather than mentally back upstairs in my home office.

Of course husband and cat critic judge me immensely for then taking the time to write this post, but I do this curled up on the sofa with them both, whilst watching something mindless on telly. They forgive me pretty quickly anyway, they’re easily bribed with homemade cake (for husband) and dreamies (for cat critic).

In case it isn’t obvious from the fact I still haven’t identified the authority I work for, the views expressed on this blog are my own opinion and not the opinion of that local authority

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