As a DJ, music producer, and lawyer, Zahir Shah believes he has basically been self-isolating for years. By day, Zahir practises in Wills, Estates, Family Law, Commercial Litigation, and Property Law. Like every other lawyer in every firm in the world, March proved to be a month like no other. Insights spoke to Zahir about what it was like to shift to working from home on short notice, the challenges of transition, and his advice for staying connected and effective in lockdown.
“Lockdown will definitely change the way we ‘lawyer’,” observed Zahir. “I’m fortunate to work for an agile law firm, so we were able to adapt quickly once lockdown came into effect.”
Adapting to work from home life
There have been some speed bumps, however.
“Keeping files up to date with correspondence and notes has been challenging as our physical files are stored on-premise,” said Zahir. “However, given the way our computer network is set up, we can access our digital files securely using remote access tools.
“Long before COVID-19 hit, the senior partners implemented a digital filing process” explained Zahir. “This means all our files are organised in such a way that it is very easy to find something and collaborate with each other regardless of physical location. This has made the adjustment to lockdown less painful.”
Adjustments have been required. The downturn has resulted in reductions to administrative staff, with some solicitors now working on varied salary arrangements to help the firm ‘hibernate’ through lockdown.
Constant, transparent communication is essential
To help the firm and its clients adjust to the vastly changed reality of working from home, clear communication has proved vital.
“In terms of face to face meetings, we began educating our clients to have conferences via phone or provide their instructions to us via email,” said Zahir. “We have also requested that our clients call our office as we used to have clients just walk in without an appointment.
“In terms of day-to-day operations, we coordinate with each other by communicating what matters each of us are handling and keep each other informed of any issues. Constant communication has been key to our success.”
Firm culture has also played a major role.
“I’m really lucky to have fantastic colleagues with open channels of communication, so it’s easy for us to stay connected and positive,” said Zahir. “I will often call my supervisor and talk through a legal problem as if we were in the same office together. It’s very reassuring knowing that I can reach out to them whenever I need to.”
Hobbies to stay creative and engaged
Before lockdown, Zahir (known as ‘@zahthedj’ on Instagram) played DJ sets 2-3 times a month at venues around Sydney or private corporate events. Now he focuses on creating more content for his mixtape series, the “Boogie Bear Sessions”, and participating in various challenges with other DJs in lockdown.
For lawyers looking to stay energised and engaged as we continue to work from home, Zahir recommends taking up a new hobby or skill.
“Personally, music and DJ-ing has been a great creative outlet and de-stressor,” reflected Zahir. “Funnily enough, I feel like I’ve become a better DJ because of my work as a lawyer as I have become more pragmatic in my approach to learning new techniques, researching and cataloguing music, and putting out content in a consistent format.”
Like the law, being a DJ presents an intellectual challenge.
“While we may be restricted to staying home, I would say we have been given a golden opportunity to really focus on our own personal development,” said Zahir. “Keep reading and researching and take the time to explore your interests.”
Highly productive in the office - and from home
Now that the firm has adapted to working from home, Zahir is upbeat.
“I think working from home will become more prevalent,” said Zahir. In addition to government guidelines and COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the work from home experience is proving, on balance, positive.
“The current situation illustrates that people can still be highly productive without physically being in the office,” said Zahir. “COVID-19 has been a catalyst for our profession in so many ways. Courts are adopting teleconference technology. As lawyers, we have been required to update our skills and make use of technology that has been around for a while.
“In a lot of ways, this may make practising law a little easier moving forward, which is a big positive to come out of the current pandemic.”
In the future, Zahir hopes to provide tailored legal services for DJs, including music licensing for public performance or remixing, sample clearance, or even making service contracts.
“It’s a long way off, but being in lockdown, you have time to think about these things,” said Zahir.