THE (NOT SO) LONELY LITIGATOR’S CLUB 22: PAUL MAGRATH: THE LAW REPORTER’S TALE

It occurred to me that a law reporter would would be a very helpful, in not essential,  addition to our club ( I have checked and the club rules allow this). So I asked Paul Magrath to join. Paul  is head of product development and online content ICLR  and a member of the Transparency Project promoting open justice and public legal education. He tweets as @Maggotlaw. Law Reporter is however a major understatement of Paul’s role, he is a regular writer and commentator on many aspects of law and was the founding editor of the Business Law Reports.  He also keeps a General in his back garden…

 

 

1. Where are you working from now?

I am currently working from the study in my home in Islington in North London, with occasionally breaks in the back garden where The General (a replica statue from the Terracotta Army in Xian, China) stands guard.

2. What has been most difficult about working remotely.

The most difficult thing has been not being able to just chat to colleagues in the office about something the minute it comes into my head.  Instead, I have to communicate it electronically. That means anything from a text message or WhatsApp to a more formal Zoom catchup later in the day.

3. What has been your biggest technical challenge?

 My biggest challenge has been discussing technical development with in-house and external teams using nothing but online tools – no whiteboard, no sticky notes, no round table with pizza cartons and drinks cans to fuel the blue-sky thinking. Instead, we have used online tools like Slack, Trello and Miro – and of course Zoom.

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

  Workwise, I wish I had brought home the big screen desktop Mac from my office and my noise-cancelling headphones. My home computer is adequate but I could use the extra screen space. My iPad Pro has been brilliant, though, as a Zoom portal, perched on top of the printer, enabling me to use my desktop during remote meetings.

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

The most helpful thing I’ve learned with my reporter/commentator hat on is that open justice CAN be done remotely, and in some way it’s even better. Though it’s been delivered in a very patchy and uneven way, access to streamed hearings, especially if court documents are also provided, could transform the ability of the public as well as reporters to see what goes on in court.

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

I do think this will change the way I work in future. I am well used to meeting and collaborating remotely – we couldn’t run the Transparency Project otherwise, with members scattered about the country. But it’s taught me how little I really need an “office” office, which is in some ways a second study, full of things like lever arch files and books which I’ve kept just in case. I don’t know when I’ll go back to the office again, and what I may find there. It will be like Miss Havisham’s banquet, perhaps, abandoned to the cobwebs.

 

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

I’m not sure there will be a moment when the traps snap open and we can all rush out again in a horde, but the first social thing I’d like to do is hang out with some friends in a restaurant. Lovely as it is to share a takeaway meal with the family at home, it’s not the same. I can’t see crowded urban trattorias in my crystal ball anytime soon, but I can imagine perhaps a socially distanced festival or beer garden, with spaced out queues for the widely separated bar and the barbecue, and perhaps a band playing on the dais – I expect them to be a bit spaced out too, of course.