CMS Webinar – COVID-19: The New Normal?

This webinar was the final webinar in this CMS series and included presentations by three CMS partners: Eleanor Lane, Sally Badham and Michael Cavers. All three partners normally work out of different CMS offices and in different sectors. This was a really interesting webinar with each partner discussing their own journey at CMS, how COVID-19 has affected their practice area and how the firm are dealing with the pandemic.

Eleanor Lane – EPC, Glasgow

Eleanor works in the Energy, Projects and Construction sector, specifically Projects. She shared that her work typically consists of analysing contracts for large infrastructure projects, which has included advising the Scottish Government about the M8 and advising on the Glasgow subway.

Interestingly, Eleanor travels a lot in her work between different offices and her project’s site. We asked Eleanor about the impact of COVID-19 on her not being physically present on site and here were her thoughts:

  • About 75% of negotiations are usually done over the phone or email anyway pre-COVID-19
  • However, admittedly, there is sometimes no substitute for physical meetings so there has had to be some adaptation
  • It has been slightly more challenging without site visits but CMS and the clients have adapted and kept going

Sally Badham – Real Estate, Bristol

Sally usually works in the Bristol office in the real estate sector. Her work includes acting for investment companies, pension funds and asset managers. COVID-19 has had a huge effect on this sector, for example:

  • The aviation sector has heavily been affected
  • Some retail clients have ceased trading
  • Other issues include: employment, insurance and consumer-related issues

In light of COVID-19, there is an evident hesitation for investment companies to invest in commercial property due to the reduced exposure of consumers in the retail sector and also commercial tenants not being able to pay their rent. Additionally, valuations of businesses has also been made more difficult because many businesses are not trading at the moment to provide accurate valuations.

Moving forward, Sally suggested that there could be a drop in commercial real estate as more people will be working from home in the long run, whilst those working in an office/building/shopping centre etc may have more flexible hours. This means that there is probably less need for larger spaces as companies can make do with smaller spaces.

Michael Cavers – Finance, London

Michael normally works in London office in the capital markets and derivatives team. He is also a mental health ambassador (at partner level) and sits as a non-executive member on the board. Michael talked about the culture at CMS, how everyone has adapted to working from home and what the firm is doing to support CMS employees.

All employees at CMS have Microsoft Surface Pros – I was even given one to use when I was participating in the CMS Academy in 2019! This already made working flexibly part of the culture of CMS which definitely helped with the transition to working from home. This flexible culture is really important at CMS for diversity & inclusion and to suit personal circumstances. We also found out that CMS employees could have their office desk chairs posted home to them!

Since the transition to working from home, there is a new buddy system whereby each partner has a few people that they touch base with on a regular basis. This allows people to check up on each other on both a professional and a personal level. The CMS Academy has also moved online this year – a testament to the CMS culture of innovation, support and creativity!

My takeaway

I really enjoyed this webinar to find out about how CMS employees have adapted to working from home and the effect of COVID-19 on various sectors. It was interesting to hear how each partner sees their sector moving forward post-COVID-19 and how CMS, as a firm, have coped with employees moving to remote working.

During my time on the CMS Academy last year, I was impressed by the flexible and supportive network (open plan offices, for example!) so it was not surprising to me to hear that CMS have set up a buddy system and the transition to working from home has been successful and smooth. I’m excited to join the firm in August 2021 and reflect on how my time in the office from 2019 has changed in 2021! If you have any questions about my experiences at CMS, please let me know and I’ll be happy to answer them!

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