For many people around the globe, 2021 was a grueling year as the pandemic continued to handbrake travel, trade, and our usual freedoms. For Melburnians, this was especially the case, the city having endured more than 262 days of lockdown since March 2020.
Kate Sherburn, Head of Legal at Who Gives A Crap, navigated the blurred lines of work and life in 2021, having to juggle her role as a lawyer with being a parent of two kids and home-schooling them during lockdown. We spoke to her about her experience as an in-house counsel working during what she terms the year of the "learning curve".
"You have to prioritize yourself," says Sherburn. Among the things she learned in 2021 was that work can easily take over your life. Demands were high and working from home blurred the lines between clocking on and clocking off. She says establishing boundaries is important. "The reality is that unless we take care of ourselves, we won’t be useful to anyone."
Working from home means putting extra effort into maintaining your relationships. "In an office environment it often happens organically, but when you’re working remotely, it has to be something you do intentionally," she points out. This looks like scheduling virtual non-work-related catchups or making time for five minutes of non-agenda discussion during a meeting.
Things haven't been all bad on the remote work front, however. Sherburn believes lockdowns have increased the importance of the social aspect of work as people weren't able to see friends or family. "While I don’t think this changed the working relationship all that much, it certainly made us all feel more connected," she says.
The increasing acceptance of e-signatures is a technology win that Sherburn discovered in 2021. "We’ve been using e-signing platforms for years, but I think last year was the first time we didn’t have a counterparty push back asking for a wet-ink signature."
The new normal isn't all bad when it forces us to rethink dated ways of working.
Asked to select a proud moment from 2021, Sherburn doesn't hesitate - completing Who Gives A Crap's first raise. This was a new experience for her, and one that came with many learnings.
Looking to this year, Sherburn is most excited about "redesigning our suite of templates from a people design perspective". Who Gives A Crap's contracts are already fairly easy to digest. "I want to make sure they are not only accessible but also a delight," she says.
If there is a singular takeaway Sherburn has from 2021 it is that "the legal industry has to adapt with the times so we can keep being the best advisors for our clients that we can be". We agree with her there.