Ahead of Living Room Law, the virtual conference all about lawyers who are doing things differently, consultant at Re:link and, formerly a senior associate at Linklaters, Anjalee Mead, explains how she ended up working in Zimbabwe
Anjalee Mead, currently a consultant at Re:link, began her legal career in London as a trainee solicitor at Linklaters, later qualifying into the project finance team in 2007. Life changed for Anjalee when she had triplets in 2012 and made the decision to spend her maternity leave in Zimbabwe surrounded by family.
A year later, with her maternity leave coming to an end, Anjalee returned to London with the intention of resigning from Linklaters so she could permanently relocate to Zimbabwe. “I had arranged lunch with the head of the Africa Group at Linklaters, Andrew Jones. I mentioned my plans to resign to Andrew, but he told me that, from his perspective, Linklaters did so many international transactions that it didn’t matter where I was based,” Anjalee recalls. And so, the wheels were set in motion and, from 2014, Anjalee began working part-time for Linklaters from Zimbabwe, before moving to Re:link as a consultant in May 2019.
Reflecting on her transition to remote-working, Anjalee shares that “especially because I was working part-time as well as remotely, it was tricky at first as I felt like I had to show availability as I wasn’t based in the office”. She continues: “You might have questions you want to ask — not big questions that you necessarily want to put in writing — but questions nonetheless and I missed being able to pop along the corridor and ask someone.” This is, of course, a situation that may feel familiar to many since the switch to working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Interestingly, Anjalee tells me that initially she was reluctant for clients to know that she wasn’t based in London — “I didn’t want them to think they were getting less of a service with me not physically being with the team”, she says, adding that the tech was such that she could take part in client calls and meetings remotely.
This was a progressive move for Linklaters: “In my department, we had no associates working remotely or on a part-time basis at the time, but everyone really embraced it,” Anjalee recalls. She was also able to leverage Linklaters’ alliance with South African law firm Webber Wentzel and assist with training and graduate recruitment events in South Africa.
Day-to-day life varies greatly, Anjalee tells me when we speak, highlighting the flexibility remote-working offers — an aspect the busy working mother appreciates. A typical day often involves juggling work with taking care of her children. A recent morning saw Anjalee setting up a science experiment outside for her kids as part of home-schooling before coming in from her garden in sunny southern Africa to jump on a client call.
Inevitably, unexpected tasks or work commitments do crop up: “Sometimes you’ll have a two-hour gap between calls to run errands but equally an urgent matter will come in and you’ll have to drop everything,” she explains. “I find it harder to find quiet, uninterrupted time to draft agreements during a weekday for example, so I usually save that for evenings or weekends where I have a solid chunk of time to dedicate to certain tasks.”
Whilst the flexibility offered by remote-working is a clear advantage, Anjalee highlights the importance of setting boundaries — which can often start to blur when working from home or as some now call it ‘living from work’. “Try to carve out time for yourself and be disciplined,” she advises. To do this Anjalee encourages those working from home to “treat your own time as you would a client’s time. You’ll always make time for a client, so make sure you make time for yourself.”
Reminiscing back to her days in the office, Anjalee says:
“At times I miss office banter, learning what other deals people are working on, being able to bounce ideas off colleagues, and IT support — when there is a printer jam, I have to fix it myself!”
For lawyers interested in working remotely on a more permanent basis, Anjalee believes that those at the level of senior associate are at a good stage to transition. “You’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to dealing with matters on your own which is important as when you’re working remotely you can’t always get hold of people and have to make independent decisions,” explains Anjalee, adding that remote-working may suit some people better than others, depending on personal circumstances and the type of work they do. Advisory work, for example, tends to have more regular working hours compared to the less predictable hours of transactional work and some people may prefer to have more predictable working hours when remote-working.
Working remotely has enabled Anjalee to resume old hobbies such as tennis and spend more time with her children. Anjalee has also extended her professional qualifications by taking the law conversion course to become a qualified lawyer in Zimbabwe and she is now completing the equivalent of a training contract in a Zimbabwe law firm on a part-time basis.
Anjalee Mead will be speaking alongside other solicitors and barristers at Living Room Law, a virtual conference taking place on the afternoon of Thursday 22 April. You can secure your place, which is free, now.
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