Swapping silks for trackies
7th May 2020
I’m actually quite enjoying this.
Over the years, you just get used to getting up and going to work every day. Into the city, back home. Repeat.
I never had given much consideration to how much work you can actually do from home. I guess in the back of my mind, I figured that if you wanted to be a court lawyer you had to go to court. To go to court, meant you had to go to the city. The last six weeks shows just how wrong you can be.
Since the so-called ‘shutdown’, I have managed to conduct lots of court cases without having to darken the door of a court: appeal cases, sentencings, adjournments, you name it. All by courtesy of videolinks and the telephone. All the things you like doing, without having to get out of your pyjamas.
The other bonus is that the absolute worst part of the job, prison visits, has now been removed from our gallery of horrors. The prisons are no longer accepting legal visits, so any communications with clients in custody have to come over Skype or by phone.
Client conferences have gone the same way, and my new best friend, Zoom, has come to my rescue. Not only does this marvel of modern technology obviate face-to-face meetings with solicitors and their clients, it enables me to fulfil my extracurricular activities at the footy club (as a director) and the Cricket Association (ditto) without having to move from my living room.
In a way, it’s sort of like a holiday, only better.
The problem with real holidays is that (apart from costing a fortune), they take so long to organise and are so stressful in the lead up; it’s not as if you can just up and go. For someone who is self-employed (like me), you need to ensure that every last detail, to keep your office and staff functioning, has been attended to. It’s no small feat making sure all the necessary accounts and wages are paid, new enquiries attended to, and unforeseen disasters headed off at the pass.
And that’s just the office.
On the home front, you need to ensure the animals are sorted, your house is looked after, cleaned, mail collected, newspapers cancelled, and so on. And the whole time you’re away, there’s the lingering thought in the back of your mind that perhaps there’s something that you’ve missed and will blow up in your absence.
Of course, it’s not all beer and skittles while you’re away. The fear of not making the best possible use of your time is always lurking around, making sure that instead of leisurely sleep-in mornings and days doing absolutely nothing beside the pool, you’re frantically off seeing the sights, hunting bargains, finding the best places for lunch and dinner and keeping a weathered eye on the situation back at the office, email and the stock market.
If you’re also on holiday at a time when sport is actually able to be played, there’s also the reflexive compulsion to check scores and results.
Yes, compared to the COVID-19 shutdown, my enforced long service leave that I have never had, formalised holidays are a bucket of stress. These days I just get up in my own time, do as much or as little work as suits me, perform all my court duties from the sofa and Bob’s your uncle.
The office keeps ticking over, the staff are chilled, and if you happen to forget something, not that there’s much to forget, it can be fixed in an instant.
The other beautiful aspect of this lockdown is that one doesn’t have to justify not wanting to go out. Sure, I love my pubs. I love my restaurants, the footy, the races, the whole shebang. But for the first time in my adult life, I don’t have to grapple with the thought that perhaps I could be using my time more wisely.
That staying in on a Saturday night is not a ridiculous waste of an opportunity to eat out at that new restaurant that you’ve read about. That not wanting to get involved at the bunfight at Perth Stadium to see Freo get flogged is just a lazy cop-out. That not taking the 90-minute round trip out to Ascot to watch your horse in a 57 second race is not an act of abject disloyalty to the steed and its trainer.
Quite frankly, being barred from pubs, restaurants, footy and the races is somewhat of a blessing. For a while at least. Obviously I will be ecstatic when the ban is lifted, but for the moment I am just really enjoying the break. Sharpening my appetite. Having attended probably an average of at least two live football matches every weekend of my life for the past 50 years and more races meetings than I’ve had hot dinners, I have to say I am not really missing them.
But of all the accumulated benefits of being forced to stay home, it’s being able to do court appearances in your tracksuit pants. Obviously, the day will come when these halcyon days will come to an end and all our noses will be back on the grindstone, but I have to say, that I am in absolutely no hurry for that day to arrive.
You can get me at home …
This article was originally published in Starfish on 29 April 2020.
Tom Percy QC was born in Kalgoorlie where his family ran a hotel for many years. He attended Scotch College and UWA, graduating in 1977 and was admitted to legal practice the following year. In 1984 Tom was elected to the WA Bar Association and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1997. Tom practices primarily in the area of criminal law, specifically jury trials and superior Court and Tribunal appeals. In 2006 he received the Community Service Award from the Law Society of WA and in 2007 he was awarded the WA Civil Justice Award by the Australian Lawyers Alliance. In 2013 Tom was awarded the WA Law Society’s Lawyer of the Year Award. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Australian Criminal Law Journal, a member of the National Criminal Law Consultative Committee and a former State President and National Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
The views and opinions expressed in these articles are the authors' and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).