International legal life in lockdown – Rupa Lakha

Rupa Lakha of Charles Russell Speechlys talks to us about her experiences of how the coronavirus lockdown has affected her working life.

Rupa Lakha

"I’m really looking forward to going back to an environment where I can see my colleagues, where I can see people every day,” says Rupa Lakha, Head of Charles Russell Speechlys’ India Desk.

But for Rupa, an expert in construction law and dispute resolution, the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been all doom and gloom: “Because of the nature of the crisis people have been much more receptive to different ways of doing business. Whilst we are prevented from going overseas at the moment, the lockdown has meant people are taking up many more opportunities to interact using the technology available. Of course, nothing will ever replace face-to-face meetings but the use of videoconferencing software allows us to engage in a completely different way, being time-efficient and effective.”

While many parts of the economy have entered a kind of hibernation, the UK construction industry was in a different position. Despite an unprecedented slump in activity levels being recorded in the early days of lockdown, the construction industry was specifically not locked down.

“Although initially a bit unclear, the government announced pretty early on that the UK construction industry was not subject to the same restrictions as other sectors. My construction work at CRS has remained busy but initially a lot of clients required a lot more advice and reassurance around health and safety, risk management and dispute avoidance rather than undertaking new projects.”

People have reacted to the crisis in different ways but for Rupa, this challenge has led to increasing her focus. “I’ve focused on my work, breaking down all of my tasks and approaching them one by one and scheduling my time efficiently. I’ve also chosen to focus on my physical health too. At the beginning of lockdown I set myself the goal of improving my physical strength. I’ve always done a lot of cardio in my workouts but recently I’ve focused on strength and conditioning. This helps with stress release and also to counter extended periods of screen time. I have also undertaken online coaching sessions to help improve soft skills required whilst operating in a management role.”

The lockdown has also meant that Rupa is able to have more regular interaction with her two children, eight and five years old, than before. “It’s opened up some more family time because I’m not commuting and therefore not racing back from the office to make bedtime. This has allowed me to give some more time to my children and get more of an insight into their daily routine. There have definitely been more hugs.”

“I wouldn’t say that the situation has been perfect, though,” she continues. “The days and weeks are relentless and I am sure this will resonate with many. There is a lot to juggle within 24 hours: you have to manage your fee earning capacity, manage your business development- all without compromise- manage your home life and also look after yourself and your own mental health. So while coronavirus has offered us an opportunity to explore more flexible ways of working and has some other positive attributes, it has also presented a lot of challenges to us as individuals.”

For Rupa, though, the overwhelming lesson from the lockdown and the crisis is one of resilience. “This only reinforces how adaptable we all are and how adaptable we all have to be in an ever-changing environment. My mantra is to keep focusing on the positives and keep ploughing forward; we have managed not only to keep going, but to actually make positive progress in unprecedented circumstances. It is worth stepping back every once in a while to take stock of this, especially when it feels overwhelming”.

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