NEXTGEN DIARIES: RACHAEL ASHTON

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On a personal level, I have been self-isolating at home since early March; I am pregnant and categorised as a “vulnerable” person. We are lucky to live in an area with beautiful countryside on our doorstep, so we are making the most of daily walks. Although I have been surprised how quickly I have become used to this new way of life, I am really missing my independence, seeing family and the buzz of the City.

Over the past couple of years, Macfarlanes has increasingly embraced agile working, so the firm has been well placed to adapt rapidly and continue business (almost) as usual. My team at Macfarlanes has been particularly good at recognising the importance of communicating effectively, with regular team catch-ups and Zoom socials every Friday evening (including a virtual Easter egg hunt!). I have been so impressed with how my colleagues have responded to the personal challenges we are all facing at this time.

As lawyers, we have been busy with providing prompt and practical advice to our clients on the impact of the Coronavirus Act and fast moving regulatory developments. In particular, the Act’s protections for both commercial and residential tenants have had a big impact on our clients across the real estate sector. We have also been grappling with questions on whether the pandemic will trigger specific “force majeure” provisions in development agreements and whether construction sites can (and should) remain open, for example.

Aside from the legal changes and issues raised specifically by the pandemic, there are new practical hurdles, for example, arranging valid execution of document in a way that will be accepted by the Land Registry. We have been working closely with clients to resolve these challenges creatively and pragmatically.

It will be interesting to see whether the crisis will lead to lasting change. The movement towards agile and more flexible working may accelerate, but it seems to me that the crisis has reaffirmed the importance of personal connection. 

Rachael Ashton

Senior Solicitor at Macfarlanes LLP