It took Charles Dickens only six weeks to write A Christmas Carol over the winter of 1843. Its publication 178 years ago, almost to the day, was viewed as having an immediate impact on the social conscious of Victorian society and specifically on their view of Christmas. Indeed, it was described by his contemporary William Makepeace Thackeray as being of ‘national benefit’.
It is hard to imagine in 2021 a piece of literature having such far reaching, or long-lasting, social impact. Today, we choose to communicate in fewer words, via simpler, more immediate formats. Sound bites with direct commentary rather than through allegory. Look, for example, at how many politicians now depend on social media rather than the soap box.
Humans, have however, throughout their existence, best communicated through storytelling. It is perhaps for that reason why, so many years later, A Christmas Carol remains such a part of our Christmas experience. Its underlying message reminds us of social responsibility. It is a warning to those who place too great an importance on money, and too little value on caring about those around them.
I recently had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the Conveyancing Association Annual Conference. It was in fact the first time that my team and I had undertaken a conference since lockdown began in 2020. We had taken, as an organisation, a cautious and people-first view of interacting with our clients. We attended with some degree of trepidation but left remembering how valuable it is for us all to spend time together as an industry, interacting and learning from each other.
During the event, we heard a lot about the human impact of delivering a conveyancing service – how we can better support each other, communicate more ably and deal with the increased pressure as an industry. On the day, the charity ‘Be Kind We Care’, spoke about the psychological impact being felt by lawyers as a result of coping with angry, stressed and often frustrated clients, who were desperate to acquire their new properties. They shared the scale of the problem that the industry faces. The figures behind mental health issues in the legal sector make for depressing reading. The work the charity is undertaking will make a significant difference.
My presentation at the event focused on human engagement with technology, explaining how technology is here to support and advance human ambitions, to unlock lawyers from their mundane daily tasks so they can better communicate and support their clients and indeed, each other. Contrary to the beliefs of some, technology is definitely not here to substitute the key thing that we most need – interaction with each other as people.
If I retold Dickens’ tale today, I would not change his fundamental message; that money alone is not the key to improvement. It takes people to choose to make a difference. In 2022, I would like to hope that we can all spend time interacting once again and that our technology, rather than diminishing our ability to communicate, can help us to understand the human story and to support each other better. As Dickens writes, “Lead on!”, said Scrooge “Lead on!”.