An Insight Into Life At AVRillo In The Aftermath Of Covid-19
Adapting to the new normal has been difficult for many people. The social distancing, working from home, furlough scheme and redundancy has made 2020 one of the hardest years to survive from a professional viewpoint. That doesn’t take into account the personal tribulations many people have had to face.
Nine months into the year, and six months of adapting to the ‘new normal’ as a result of the coronavirus, it can be helpful to look back and reflect on some of the experiences people in the legal sector have been through.
Tony Piccirillo, Senior Partner at AVRillo shared his experiences with Sheryl Hodgson from Today’s Conveyancer about what working for the award winning conveyancing firm was like during the coronavirus pandemic.
For firms surviving during the coronavirus lockdown proved difficult, not only for their own survival but the knock on effect other stakeholders such as banks and other firms who’d they regularly interact with temporarily closing their doors, especially whilst the lockdown was in full swing.
Tony explained the steps AVRillo took to ensure they still provided a service to their customers.
“We are aware of firms who began to adopt a working from home policy just before lockdown hit. However, here at AVRillo we established a remote working environment two years ago. We also embraced a paperless culture and use a case management system to ensure all of our documentation is stored safely and securely. This doesn’t mean that lockdown was a walk in the park for us, we still had our struggles which we had to work around and overcome.
“For instance, not all of our staff members wanted to work from home. As a result we had to furlough some of the 66 staff members we employed. This wasn’t an easy decision, and we tried to delay the furlough process as long as we could. However, we took a pragmatic approach and looked at what services our clients needed and what outcomes we could realistically achieve. Naturally, a lot of our transactions were paused whilst lockdown took its full effect and some firms closed their doors.
“ Whilst new instructions dropped as there were very few people buying, our completion rate stayed at the level we expected. In some cases our workload seemingly increased as simultaneous exchanges and completions took place, which was hard work.
“Our conveyancers struggled to get monies in from the banks, who were also suffering due to the lockdown restrictions. Getting hold of a lender proved to be a very lengthy process, taking many hours. We heard that one high street lender, whose bases are in India, suffered did a sharp lockdown and were told that for a short time their staff levels were 20% of their usual capacity.
“However, we knew we provide a great service here to our clients, and although times were tough, there would be light at the end of the tunnel.”
The English property market re-opened in May 2020, and since then the property market has bounced back from the lockdown lull.
Tony revealed that AVRillo are indeed seeing the market bounce back, and as a result are seeing an increase in enquiries.
“We know a lot of estate agents, and we used to operate in that sphere, so we seem to have a good view of the market. I believe, that during the Brexit issue consumers were waiting to see what the outcome would be. Then after Christmas 2019, and the fact that Brexit had seemingly reached a conclusion, people wanted to start buying and selling houses once more.
“Roll on three months into 2020, when coronavirus brought the UK to a standstill, people once again put their property dreams on hold. Now that restrictions are easing, and the market has re-opened the bounce back is happening because this pent-up demand is now entering the pipeline.”
Technology has no doubt played a big part in firms surviving the coronavirus pandemic, and AVRillo have relied on technology to help them ensure that their staff can focus on the job on looking after the clients, keep a work life balance and provide the best service they can to their clients. However, the pandemic has helped them to appreciate it more, and provide a better service to their clients.
“Lawyers are resistant to change; we are all creatures of habit after all. But because of the effects of lockdown, people understood and embraced the changes needed to ensure business could continue as best it could in the new ‘normal’.
“We have improved the efficiency in communication we have with our clients, as we’ve improved our app which helps us to verify a client’s ID and all of their other information, we require to progress a transaction.”
Very few people probably would have envisaged that people would recruit during a pandemic. Research conducted by Today’s Conveyancer revealed that between 23 July and 31 August 2020, the number of job adverts that included the term ‘conveyancer’ on the recruitment website Indeed, had increased by almost 60%.
This is being attributed to the bounce back of the market. AVRillo are actively recruiting for positions and have been inundated with applications.
“Three days prior to the lockdown restrictions being eased we advertised some job opportunities, and to say we were inundated with applications is an understatement.
“Promoting a positive culture in our workplace is important to us, and we want to change the lives of our clients and staff.
“We run a number of programmes to help staff morale, and we’re CBT trained to help staff deal with any problems they have.
“We’re not adverse to going the extra mile for staff. One of our employees was unable to drive due to suffering badly with her nerves. However, she had elderly parents who she wanted to see and driving would make it easier. We wanted to help her, we paid for her driving lessons and helped boost her confidence. She passed her test, and the first trip she took was to see her parents.”
With the professional indemnity insurance (PII) renewal season soon to get underway, Tony wanted to share his experience of completing the renewal in the aftermath of a pandemic.
“We have completed our renewal, and it was extremely hard work. We’ve had no negligence claims and we won multiple awards but it was a tough process. We used a good broker, who has almost four decades worth of experience in the industry, and even he says the PII market is the worst its ever been.
“My advice to anyone doing their renewal would be to give yourself plenty of time to do it. There are a lot of extra forms to fill in, and they all require details that demonstrate what firms do on a daily basis.
“Naturally, insurers are worried about Covid claims, and have been suffering with claims for estate rent charges and rent clauses in leases.
“Allocate a lot more time that you’re used to doing, go into detail about the daily running of the firm and be aware of buyer investment fraud, as insurers are looking for reassurance that you know this.”