When solicitor Craig Shipp joined Newport law firm Bellavia & Associates just over a year ago, Covid-19 had only just started making the headlines and the nation was yet to experience lockdown.
Little did the 41-year-old think he would be marking his first anniversary with the company as Wales prepared to exit its third national lockdown.
“It’s crazy really,” says Craig. “Within a matter of days of joining we were in a national lockdown and everyone knows what has happened since then.
“As lawyers, we are classified as key workers so we knew we’d carry on working but we did wonder whether business would slow down. But the opposite happened, and we got busier and busier as the year progressed.”
Managing director Zep Bellavia gave his staff the option of working from home or continuing to operate from the firm’s rural offices.
As a father of four-year-old twins, Craig has more distractions than some at home and took the option to remain working in the office.
“The team changed the office around to make sure we complied with all Covid-19 regulations and it’s always felt very safe here,” says Craig.
“Like most businesses, we installed video conferencing software like Teams and Zoom as well as a few other pieces of technology.”
The workplace is not the only place to change during the pandemic.
“The courts have adapted as well,” says Craig. “Most hearings are currently happening via telephone or video. The pandemic has certainly pushed technology forward and I’m not sure things will return to the way they were.
“Hopefully gone are the days of sitting in court waiting rooms for hours on end while other cases are concluded.
“Signing into an online hearing when the judge is ready to start is much more efficient than travelling to court. I hope courts will consider continuing with video conferencing for certain cases.”
The workload for the team at Bellavia & Associates has also changed as the pandemic has progressed.
“Litigation is on the increase, particularly debt recovery. Businesses might have been more ready to offer credit to their customers or other businesses in the past but now they need cashflow to survive
“Sadly, we’ve also seen an increase in insolvency cases, where businesses are struggling to make it through the crisis.”
A qualified solicitor since 2008, Craig has found his first year at Bellavia & Associates “an exciting challenge”.
“In some ways, it has been more of a challenge than I expected due to the wide variety of the work – but that is why I came here,” he says.
“I’ve worked across contentious probate, commercial litigation, and commercial property cases as well as asset purchase agreements.
“More recently, we’ve had work from the likes of festival organisers and estate agents as businesses get ready to exit lockdown and hit the ground running.”
As the nation moves slowly out of lockdown, Craig’s hopes for the post-Covid recovery period are straightforward.
“I just want to see the growth we’ve experienced over the last year continue. No matter how big or small the case, we just like to do as much as we can for people who need help.”