News / Community / Business / 26th August 2020
TAKE FIVE: with John McCaffrey from Clarke & Cunningham
Tell me about your business:
The law firm Clarke & Cunningham commenced shortly after World War I and according to a legal historian, Clarke & Cunningham may be the longest, continuous unchanged name for a law firm in NSW. I came to the firm in 1981 and my wife, Pam Maclean, joined in 1986. Brian Mockler, who has worked for Clarke & Cunningham for decades, now works about two days a week doing mainly Supreme Court cases involving contested wills and other litigation.
The practice covers a wide range of community needs - conveyancing, litigation, criminal law, probate and succession law, family provision claims. The office ticks over with super efficiency as we have staff who really know their jobs and work with great enthusiasm. Mandy Edwards assists me with conveyancing and property transactions. Katrina Harley is Pam’s secretary and the financial controller whose easy going manner belies her skills. Lynne Morris is our friendly receptionist who does a multitude of jobs.
What current measures do you have in place to adhere to social distancing and hygiene requirements?
We have made so many changes in the office! The first change was to set up a room just for meeting clients so social distancing and minimal contact was ensured. This meant musical chairs for the staff and some structural changes, taking out an internal wall, opening up a large work area for the girls, and moving solicitors into different rooms. But now we have a safe environment for staff and clients alike. With fresh new premises, painting, carpeting, air- conditioning, new coordinated office furniture, we hope the office is now a much more inviting and comfortable place for clients and more efficient for the staff.
We’re also following new Law Society guidelines to make it possible to have documents witnessed at a distance. Clients making appointments are asked if they’ve been to COVID-19 hotspots or have symptoms, a log book at the front door records contact details for everyone who comes in the building, hygienic handwash is used by all, the clients sit in the meeting room at a wide desk that ensures social distancing and the number of people in the room is carefully monitored. During any signing process, a fresh biro is used by each client and the meeting room and entrance hallway are carefully cleaned after each meeting.
How have clients and staff adapted to the changes?
Clients seem to be really happy with the changes. Simpler communication, more phone calls, less formality, more accessibility. The staff are happy because their jobs have been assured by the changes we’ve made. Flexible work hours have meant that some are starting earlier and home in time for their kids, some starting later and finishing later. We’re trying to minimise the impact any outbreak will have on the jobs of the staff and operation of the business.
How has technology been your biggest ally during these times?
We started the changes in technology long before the risk, so we are now all organised to work from home if it should become necessary. Pam had a few weeks at home trialling the system and found it pretty easy. More emails have meant good communication with clients and we can work on our office screens and programs from home if necessary. Many appointments are also now being held by conference calls and Zoom.
What toll did the drought have on your business?
Like all businesses in town, what affects the farmer and grazier affects our business. Thank goodness people in the bush are pretty tough and resilient and can cope with drought, fire and pandemic, and battle on, thinking, “there is always someone who has it tougher than us”. If we all support each other and buy local we will get through.