THE (NOT SO) LONELY LITIGATOR’S CLUB 21: DONNA SCULLY: FROM DUBLIN TO LIVERPOOL

Our newest member practices in Liverpool. Donna Scully. Originally from Dublin Donna qualified as a solicitor at the age of 30 and is now director of the Carpenters Group.

 

I am Irish, from Dublin.  I am a joint owner/Director of Carpenters Group.  I am on social media too much, probably because I’m a storyteller by nature and have an opinion on far too many things! I have twin boys of 19 who are both (normally) at University. I left school at 16, did a secretarial course and became a legal secretary.  I emigrated to the UK when I was 20 as part of an extended holiday romance, which didn’t last long. I went back to school at 21 to study law, completed Ilex, CPE then the Legal Practice Course, eventually qualifying as a solicitor just before my 30th birthday having done it the very long way!  I have only ever specialised in personal injury work although I did work in a busy Legal Aid practice in Newcastle where I covered all areas of law – basically whatever came through the door.  After several years I left London in 1997 to join Carpenters and set up its Personal Injury Department.  Carpenters celebrated 25 years last year.

1. Where are you working from now?

Home! John (Carpenter) and I share a study with two desks, two PCs and a printer/scanner! It’s near the front door so you have to be careful about the bell ringing with deliveries or the postman shouting in.  I tend to work in my conservatory too if I have reading to do or phone calls to make.

2. What has been most difficult about working remotely.

I learnt to work remotely some time ago when I was Chair of the Motor Accident Solicitors Society between 2010 and 2012.  It involved a lot of travelling so I had to work a lot on the road or at home in the evenings or at weekends to keep up with the day job too.

There is a big difference between choosing to work remotely when it suits you and having to do it 100%! I miss going into the office and seeing everybody and I used to travel a lot for meetings, speaking events and roundtables, predominantly in London, and I really miss that. Zoom & Teams have been a revelation though.

3. What has been your biggest technical challenge?

Oh god everything!  I have a wonderful IT Department at Carpenters who take care of me.  I suspect they laugh behind my back at my lack of basic knowledge or IT skills, but they have unending patience with me. They had to teach me Zoom and Teams and they have had to hold my hand whilst I learn how to do podcasts, webinars and online roundtables.  I managed to make it through an online awards’ judging panel last week on Zoom, so I am slowly getting there!

Can I mention I have terrible trouble getting my head on the screen properly on Zoom and Teams!  My chair won’t go any higher so I have resorted, during live events, to placing books under my IPad so I can be seen.  I admitted this on a podcast and the presenter asked me what book and I had to admit it was Delia Smith, a long-lost gift I’d never opened!

I’m still amazed and impressed at how well we have all adapted to this new world which was thrust upon us with such little notice.  Even the technophobes like me.  I have read anything I can find on how to make Zoom and Teams work better!

4. Is there anything (work wise) that you wish you had with you?

The people!  I miss my colleagues and I particularly miss my PA, Gill.  She is my lifeline and although we are still ‘working’ together, I miss popping into her office for a chat.

5. What has been the most helpful thing you’ve learned.

Honestly, it is to take one day at a time and to be more patient.  I am not worried or nervous doing podcasts or webinars because I think we are all being very supportive of each other and trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. I am obviously learning to use technology better so that is something I get to keep, and I needed it.  It will help me going forward.

I have also learnt that communication is king during lockdown, whether for family, friends or staff.  I try to keep in touch with people and I share any stories I have on our intranet because I think it’s important that we keep our team spirit going, even if we are all apart.  That has worked very well.  Our internal communications team are amazing.  They have done a wonderful job at keeping us all connected.

6. Do you think this is going to change the way you work in the future?

Without any doubt I will change the way I work.  I was already partly home working but I will be better at it now.  I think the way our business works will change too.  We need positives from this awful period and I think a huge positive will be more flexible working and better communication. I think I’ll also be a bit more picky about wasteful long journeys for meetings that could be carried out online.

7. What is the first thing you are going to do when you are out of lockdown?

It is tempting to give an intellectual or kind-hearted response, but I will be honest and say my first trip will be to the hairdressers before I go anywhere!  I usually have my hair cut every 4 weeks and it’s now about 9 weeks and counting.  I have big Irish hair so it’s not good.  I am obviously very keen to see family and friends and go out for a meal and a drink!  I am a very sociable person normally, so I really miss going out both for work and personally.  I suspect the first time I get to go for a meal and a drink, I might stay out a very long time and it will be hard for John to get me home!  See you on the other side.

(Donna making banana bread)