THE (NOT SO) LONELY LITIGATOR’S CLUB 7: SIMON (“SPIKE”) MULLINGS
The seventh member of the club is legal aid practitioner, Simon Mullings, who describes himself as “a long-beard housing law caseworker and newly anointed co-chair of the Housing Law Practitioners’ Association.”
1. Where are you working from now?
I am working from my room in the attic of my house in Forest Gate, East London. You may call me Mrs Rochester, or just plain Bertha if you prefer.
2. What has been most difficult about working remotely.
Lack of client contact. I am a legal aid practitioner working at times with very vulnerable people. It may sound a little bit calculating and to be honest it is, but empathy is the fuel that legal aid lawyers run on (it certainly isn’t remunerative reward) and so not meeting in person with clients means we have to work harder to bridge the gap remotely.
3. What has been your biggest technical challenge?
Actually the answer to question 2 could be the answer to question 3. But, taking the more narrow sense of the word ‘technically’, I would have to say the biggest challenge is my household’s flighty Wi-Fi internet provision. Whether it be crashing out of zoom meetings without warning or suddenly realising that the last 150 words I typed while staring at my keyboard are lost because the office cloud server was dropped, the Warner/Mullings household Wi-Fi consistently reminds me of the Burt Kwouk character in the Pink Panther movies.
4. Is there anything (work wise) that you wish you had with you?
Nothing tangible, but like everyone I miss the real life camaraderie of colleagues who are also friends. I went to the office to get my computer screen so I have two screens at home which I find hugely helpful. @LegalActionGrp and @LexisNexisUK have been amazing in releasing key texts in PDF format for free so I have my main ‘go to’ text-book resources. I am lucky to have a room I can work in, and if I am honest, while I fiercely stick by the first sentence of this answer, I can’t say I miss the open-plan office when I have to get my concentration on.
5. What has been the most helpful thing you’ve learned.
Sorry but going to do two. First is I have learned that that I can learn new things. I know it’s daft but I’m 52 y/o and I have, in occasional contemplative moments, thought I’d never be able learn another new thing ever again. I was very wrong.
Second is how to do podcasts. You heard me HLPA members, podcasts.
6. Do you think this is going to change the way you work in the future?
Without a doubt. Paper bundles are now starting to seem as absurd as a penny-farthing or leeches. Having said that I am concerned about remote hearings. I completely accept that they are a necessity at the moment and in cases where there are legal reps only, they may or even should have a big and important future. However, I have serious concerns about vulnerable people in the widest possible sense of that word being prejudiced by remote
technologies in court hearings and so another thing I have learned to do is write, and also present in a remote access seminar on that subject.
7. What is the first thing you are going to do when you are out of lockdown?
I looked back over the WhatsApp messages of a Justice Alliance campaigning group I am a member of (also they are dear friends) called Civil Disobedience and noted that on 20 March 2020, the day when I entered self-isolation in my attic for a week and a bit, I wrote,
“Sorry I didn’t sort out that curry yet, but by Dog, we will hit that Star of India [Leytonstone] and the Cobras like a —-ing freight train when all this is over.”
So perhaps that will give your readers some idea of the general intention.
Stay safe and stay well everyone, and make sure you hug your loved ones, physically if you can, but by any means necessary.