Like organizations everywhere, law firms in Zuidas have faced some hurdles in recent months. How do they look back on this period? What sorts of measures did they have to take and what’s their view on the future? We put these questions to Edward de Bock, managing partner at Houthoff.
Your firm has probably been working from home a lot lately. How has that gone?
‘All the transitions of the past months went very smoothly. Our people are resourceful and quickly adapted to the new situation, but it wasn’t all jolly. We have all really missed the dynamics of working in the office and being surrounded by colleagues. Our clients are dealing with the same issues of course, and that’s why we recently organized a digital client event for them in cooperation with our friends at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet. But brilliant as it is to have all those digital tools, we’re thrilled to be able to work with a small contingent of colleagues at the office again, under strict conditions. Our people are doing well, I’m glad to say, and Houthoff overall is too. We’ve continued to work with tremendous energy to keep up the same level of service to our clients and I’m very proud that our people pulled that off so well in this difficult time. Even when one of our managing partners, Gerhard Gispen, passed away very unexpectedly during this time, our organization proved it could stay strong despite how deeply we are grieving his loss.’
Has the corona situation led to any major changes at Houthoff?
‘The biggest change has been the lack of face-to-face contact. Not only has everyone been working from home, we haven’t seen our clients as we ordinarily would. Also, we organize lots of events for clients and students throughout the year that all had to be cancelled, of course. We had to quickly come up with creative digital solutions to maintain the same standard of legal services. That was vital in view of the rapid pace of changes our clients were facing too, also legally, raising questions about insurances, employment law and how to interpret the evolving government rules, to name just a few. And that was all on top of our “regular” work that also had to be done.’
What do you think the future holds for the Netherlands?
‘I have no ready answer for that, unfortunately. What’s certain is that a lot will remain uncertain and that we just have to accept that for the foreseeable future everything that seemed normal will to some extent be abnormal. More tangibly I’m afraid many will feel the pain, but at the same time I think we’re fortunate in that this country has a strong foundation. Without discounting all the suffering we’re seeing now, I do believe in the old adage “never waste a good crisis”. Besides the concern of survival, this is also a time to reflect, regroup. Sadly, it’s from hardship that we learn what is truly valuable to us, and change what needs to be changed.’
Have you got a special message for Zuidas?
‘I miss you – Houthoff misses you! Though we can work at the office in some small groups again, it’s not busy like it normally is. But above all my message is to take care of each other, and to wish everyone luck with the challenges they’re facing. And, if you need us, Houthoff is up and running.’