By Scott Wright

THE way people work and communicate has changed enormously since the pandemic struck. But some things have stayed the same.

At Edinburgh law firm Lindsays, private clients have continued to correspond the old-fashioned way – and there is no sign of that changing.

While digital communication has become the preferred option for many of us – and 90 per cent of Lindsays’ staff are continuing to work at home

– the mail bags continue to bulge at Lindsays’ three Scottish offices.

“We have a very strong private client base and we get bags and bags of mail every day,” said managing partner Alasdair Cummings. “And the mail kept getting delivered to the offices throughout the pandemic.

“We have turned each of our offices – that’s Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee – into support hubs. We have 170, 180 people working at home, and a handful are going in every day to make sure the process carries on. It is extraordinary.”

Mr Cummings, who has spent the bulk of his 30-year career with Lindsays, reflects with pride on how everyone at the firm has pulled together since the crisis erupted.

Despite spending the early days of the pandemic working on “disaster scenario” planning with chief operating officer Ian Beattie, when the two modelled Lindsays’ resilience on the basis of no income being generated in the first quarter after lockdown, clients continues to utilise its services. Revenue for the year to the end of March this year is expected to have been comparable to the prior 12 months at around £17 million when the accounts are finalised.

“As I stand here at the moment, I feel a great sense of pride in the resilience of my firm,” said Mr Cummings. “Clients have kept coming to us for help throughout the pandemic. That has been a real tick in the box as far as we are concerned.

“But I am also hugely grateful for the people I have got working in the business, and for how hard they have worked, looking after these clients and ourselves as well.”

The crisis has thrown up a variety

of dynamics, many which were unforeseen. One has been the resilience of the residential property market, which boomed after it reopened following lockdown last summer. And house prices have continued to rise, supported by measures such as the temporary suspension of Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in Scotland, and record-low interest rates.

“It just hit the ground running,”

Mr Cummings said of the market’s reopening last summer. “It was extraordinary. I don’t think we have ever experienced volumes like it.

“It’s slightly counter-intuitive. You look at the news every night and see what is going on and yet the property market was singing.

“But I think it was driven by the fact mortgages were still readily available, [and] base interest rates were as low as they have ever been. Money has never cheaper, and it is also available. Whilst a lot of people in different sectors have been very badly hit by the pandemic, many others haven’t. Their jobs have just carried on, they have not been spending any money, they have staying at home all the time and thoughts start to turn to, let’s do an extension, let’s move house.”

Despite house prices continuing to climb, Mr Cummings said there is no immediate sign the market is a bubble waiting to burst. He notes lockdown has led to strong demand from people looking to move to bigger homes with more outdoor space, having been forced to spend so much time at home in the last 15 months.

“There are always concerns the market can overheat and there will be a correction,” Mr Cummings said. “Historically, one would expect that to perhaps come along the line at some stage. At the moment, we are not seeing any signs of that. It remains strong.”

Elsewhere within Lindsays, Mr Cummings said it has been a positive year for the firm’s corporate team, too, following a short hiatus in the wake of the first UK-wide lockdown. The team has been active advising angel investors on a “reasonably robust” number of deals, he said.

Asked if he agreed with the assessment from some quarters that there is a “wall of cash” built up during the pandemic now waiting to be invested by businesses, Mr Cummings said: “It is broader than that. Yes, there are businesses that have been sitting amassing cash during the pandemic because they have not been spending as much, [and] costs have been down.

I think the market mood is there will be further activity.

“We are also seeing it across the spectrum because, whilst we have been locked down, we haven’t had a liquidity crisis, as for example we did during the [crash[ that started in 2008, when the credit just wasn’t available. That has not been the case here at all.”

As restrictions linked to coronavirus slowly continue to unwind, thoughts at Lindsays are turning towards the future of office life. Mr Cummings envisages the firm adopting a “hybrid” model, with staff splitting time between home and the office.

He said office life is particularly important for those such as the eight trainees Lindsays took on last September, whom he said would benefit hugely from interacting with more experienced colleagues and observing how they work.

“You can’t underestimate how much young folk miss out on not being able to being able to sit with others in an open-plan work environment and listen to what is going on,” he said.