New Year message from ISE Chair

Jan 4, 2021 | Sector & policy | 2 comments

Deborah McCormack, Head of Early Talent for Pinsent Masons and ISE Chair, looks back at 2020 and what may have a lasting impact as we enter 2021.

Jean-Paul Sartre said, ‘Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you’.

No one needs reminding of ‘what’s been done’ to the world in 2020. As I write, like many of you, we are in the highest tier of restriction in Glasgow. In the wake of Covid-19 we all continue to experience personal and professional challenges, the like of which we’ve never encountered before.

Notwithstanding the difficulties, it’s true what they say; adversity and opportunity make good bedfellows. One of the silver linings of 2020 has been the chance to re-evaluate, innovate and reinvent our approach to many of our long-established ways of living and working.

So, as some of us cough and splutter our way into 2021, it’s natural that we take time to reflect on a year fraught with perpetual uncertainty and constant change, asking ourselves, what will we continue to do differently?

For me and my family (including my wonderful work family), amidst the challenges Covid inevitably brought, there were a few rays of sunshine (although sadly not in Portugal as planned). Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned and the lasting impact I anticipate they’ll have on my approach to work and life:


We can work remotely, flexibly and in an agile way… if enabled and supported to do so

Some of us have been in on that secret for a while. My other half wasn’t one of them, but he, like many of the cynics, has adapted beautifully. Time to go for a morning run (or in my case do the laundry and vacuum) before starting work- check! Time for breakfast at home- yes you do! A family evening meal on a week night – really? Yes, really! Pre-Covid, all of the above were rare occurrences, and in my house, with travel schedules as they were, frankly out of the question.

Like many working parents, this year I’ve been grateful for the time spent around my kids, when I would normally have been in an airport, train station or hotel. In many ways, the pace of life needed to come down a gear. For me, there’s an irony that I’ve never felt more productive or delivered as much output, but am still managing to get a decent night’s kip (with a proper skincare routine!). And Alan hasn’t been distracted by Countdown, as he’d feared, although the Tour de France may have been on in the background occasionally (don’t tell his boss).


Virtual interaction can be a great substitute for face to face – it’s not perfect, but it has many merits

Covid has provided the catalyst to galvanise a more sustainable, cost effective and flexible approach to attracting and selecting future talent. Virtual work experience programmes are helping to level the playing field, enabling wider access than in-office schemes could ever accommodate. That approach, coupled with in-person insight events, may be the blend many organisations settle on when we look ahead. Similarly with virtual conferences, many of us have been able to attend more events this year; shifting some much needed focus back to our own personal development.


Our network connections have deepened

The challenges we’ve experienced, the need to find solutions and desire to share best practice to support and enable one another has been a positive. The ISE’s Sector Focus Group Town Halls have continued to thrive and grow, providing a source of knowledge and reassurance that we are all feeling our way and doing the best we can for our stakeholders.

Personally, I’ve been incredibly grateful to the many ISE colleagues who have taken the time to join our regular Legal Sector Zooms, sharing their expertise on and offline. For me, the ISE’s greatest strength is in the power of its network.


We should focus more on what we can do, not what we can’t do

A couple of colleagues have reminded me of this over the past few months and I’ve found it a helpful concept to keep front of mind when things feel a bit overwhelming. Those conversations with my colleagues have been a valuable source of positive energy, laughs and inspiration this year. As a team, we’ve pulled each other through the worst of it and are closer as a result; notwithstanding we’ve not been in a room together since March.


Apparently FIFA 2021 for Xbox doesn’t cut it as home schooling

I’d be the first to hold my hands up to admit I could never be a teacher- as a profession it has my utmost respect and deep gratitude. The importance of the structure and routine of school, for children and parents alike, came into sharp focus during the first lockdown. Schools are doing a fantastic job of managing their communities, in the most extenuating of circumstances.


‘Succession’ is absolutely outstanding

If you haven’t watched this TV treat already, do so immediately. And once you’ve finished that seek out Industry on iplayer (needless to say, this won’t provide the blueprint for an award-winning graduate programme, but it is entertaining).

As we enter the uncertain territory of 2021, it’s fair to say we do so in the hope of an effective vaccination programme giving us the chance to get together again by early Summer. So, while Christmas and Hogmanay 2020 may have been more subdued than some of us would have liked, in the words of George Harrison:

‘Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always going to be this grey
All things must pass.’

A happy and healthy new year all.

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  1. Hannah R

    Great read Debs.

  2. Lorraine Chambers

    Enjoyed this article. Resonates strongly with our New Year message of some of the unexpected positives of the new normal, being proud of achievements in the face of adversity, and the strong careers community we work in. Thank you.

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