In this latest interview with our In-house Financial Services event speakers, Lloyds Bank head of legal change & delivery Justine Sacarello talks to The Lawyer about the acceleration in the ‘lawyer of the future’ debate; prioritising work and preserving a home/ work balance in the current climate, but also how lawyers never took their eye off the Brexit ball.

Justine SacarelloWhat positives can you see emerging from this current climate?

For many years the legal community has been debating what the ‘Lawyer of the Future’ will look like and what skills we will need to equip ourselves with, to maximise future legal value – will we be ‘O’-shaped, bionic or something else?

One positive of this current situation is that the ‘Lawyer of the Future’ debate has been accelerated exponentially as lawyers, by necessity, adopt agile methodologies such as working flexibly to cater for their own and colleagues’ other responsibilities like childcare; embrace technology – who knew we’d all be facilitating our own Zoom coffees and isolating our silhouette on Microsoft Teams because, let’s face it, sometimes a blurry background is exactly what we need; as well as leveraging the economics of collaboration across the entire legal community to deliver the best outcomes for our stakeholders.

I think this is a significant positive aspect of lockdown which I’d hope will evolve into the ‘new normal’

How have you managed to prioritise your workload?

I think it’s essential to maintain a structured day and be disciplined in preserving a balance between home and work (that’s especially important for those who are working off an ironing board). A wise person once told me ‘you can only eat an elephant in bitesize chunks’. Whilst I’ve never wanted to eat an elephant, I have relied upon this phrase to avoid being overwhelmed by a busy workload.

I try to identify all tasks, log them on my To Do List, and then break each task into manageable bite size chunks which I prioritise – I’d also recommend avoiding ‘bottlenecks’ by having an honest conversation with stakeholders at the earliest opportunity, to identify priorities and manage expectations. Hopefully that’ll contribute to a Zen-like existence during lockdown but in circumstances where that fails, there’s always chocolate.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on Brexit planning?

It took a global pandemic with devastating health, societal and economic impacts to depose Brexit from the media’s headlines. Nevertheless, lawyers never took their eye off the ball in terms of their planning strategies which continued apace alongside all the amazing work to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

The progress in relation to the UK/EU Free Trade Agreement negotiations will play a central role in many organisations’ strategies particularly in relation to determining future cross border trade, so lawyers will be tracking developments with interest. It’s worth noting that there is a one-time only option pursuant to the EU Withdrawal Agreement (but not the UK’s EU (Withdrawal) Act 2020) to extend the transitional period by one or two years if agreed before 1 July 2020. But with only six months to the end of the Transitional Period, the countdown has begun, and lawyers continue to plan on the basis of their known unknowns.

Of course, lawyers are also focused on the onshoring of EU laws into UK law which is a herculean task, and navigating the eco-system for the implementation and subsequent interpretation, of those laws.

Like Brexit, Covid-19 has thrown up uncertainties in terms of the ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘how’. These are uncertainties that the legal community are well versed in dealing with, and can really add value in supporting their stakeholders and clients at this time.

What has your ‘down time’ consisted of?

Initially ‘down time’ consisted entirely of moving daily life online. I’m Chair of a sea-scout group consisting of 100 young people ranging from 6 to 18-year-olds, many of whom live in challenging environments. Moving all of our meetings and activities online, including participating in a National Camping Weekend, was not only exceptionally challenging (with iPads etc being delivered to young people who don’t ordinarily have online access etc) but also wonderfully satisfying.

Currently, ‘down time’ includes a lot of cycling through the uncharacteristically quiet streets of London – pedalling over a desolate Tower Bridge will be a memory cherished forever.

Justine Sacarello is one of the 30+ speakers making up this year’s speaker line-up at The Lawyer’s In-house Financial Services virtual event taking place between 30 June – 2nd July. For more information on the conference, a copy of the agenda, or to register for any of the 10+ sessions available, please visit the event website.