Articles From the Team

Legal sector embraces virtual workarounds amid pandemic

We can all agree that the Coronavirus pandemic is not just deadly; it’s caused a fundamental shift within the fabric of society itself and uprooted the everyday life of millions. COVID-19 has affected most industries within the UK and had a profound impact on our working environments.

In such uncertain times, to ensure continuity of services and to protect themselves financially, businesses within the legal sector have been forced to make tough decisions such as cuts to partner payouts or furloughing staff members. However, those within legal have also rallied together, embracing virtual workarounds and remote working initiatives.

Traditionally the legal industry has been notoriously slow on the uptake when it comes to technology. Forbes has even predicted that Coronavirus will “turbocharge” a digital transformation. Many are apprehensive about the effect of technology, especially regarding the threat of job cuts as a result of automation. However, the power technology has to bring us together in such extreme times has certainly been felt during the last three weeks of lockdown.

The future is still so much bigger than the past 

- Tim Berners-Lee

For one, Clifford Chance’s summer vacation scheme will be going ahead in virtual form from the 1st to the 3rd of July 2020. Those on the scheme will take part in case studies and daily challenges intended to help participants develop an understanding of the type of projects and cases trainees work on within corporate and litigation, risk management, and dispute resolution.

Similarly, Pinsent Masons also confirmed a shift online for its summer vacation scheme. Under the supervision of a qualified lawyer, those on the scheme will be assigned a trainee buddy to help guide them through the tasks and offer feedback.

White & Case is set to run an online event for students on the 23rd of April. ‘Understanding how a global law firm works’ features speakers Carina Radford, an energy, infrastructure, project and asset finance partner based in London, Rob Bennett, a financial restructuring and insolvency partner based in New York, and Hazel Levent an international arbitration and litigation associate based in Paris. The event has already proven to be popular and is already fully booked!

Firms aren’t the only ones to embrace the virtual world. Women in the Law UK have launched a programme of social webinars as an alternative to their face-to-face events. Founder Sally Penni presents “In Conversation With” a meeting over the platform Zoom which invites guests to virtually socialise over a glass of wine or a cup of tea. “Lunch and Learn” is another of their webinars; each session is led by an expert and covers a specific topic (such as routes to partnership, social media, and personal brandings). Women in the Law UK have also increased the frequency of their “Talking Law” podcast from a monthly to a weekly broadcast.

The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village

- Marshall McLuhan

LegalEdCon 2020 has been moved online and is confirmed to take place on Thursday 14th May. The event is run by BPP Law School, The University of Law and BARBRI. The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) speakers are Liz Ritter - head of business development at BPP, Jill Howell-Williams - the Moorgate centre dean Jill Howell-Williams at ULAW, and Sarah Hutchinson - MD of BARBRI, Julie Brannan - head of education and training at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), Joanne Gubbay - head of learning and development at Slaughter and May, and Paul Gascoyne - graduate recruitment chief at Shearman & Sterling. The discussion will be chaired by Legal Cheek publisher Alex Aldridge.

Furthermore, as our very own Raj Sidhu (Associate Director at BCL) discusses in her blog: ‘what do Judges do and why is the Judiciary so important?’ you can also take advantage of many massive open online courses (MOOC’s) during the Coronavirus lockdown for free. ‘The Modern Judiciary: Who They Are, What They Do and Why it Matters’ is a 5-week online course created by King's College London in partnership with the Judiciary of England and Wales aimed to educate the public on the workings of the court and the role of Judges. You can also take some introductory courses on GDPR, human rights, gender inequality and more!

Launched at the end of March, ‘Remote Courts Worldwide’ was developed by Professor Richard Susskind as an initiative to help provide remote alternatives to the traditional court set up in the wake of the COVID-19. As referenced by Mark Cotter QC in his recent opinion piece for the Brief, the courts are facing an unprecedented emergency with many trials by jury coming to a standstill during the lockdown and an increasingly large backlog of cases building. With already stretched resources, it is worried that the criminal justice system will not be able to cope with the pressures once restrictions have been lifted. Virtual workarounds are being embraced by many as a solution to the crisis.

In their enthusiasm to dismiss online courts, they often forget the many shortcomings of what is currently in place

-  Richard Susskind

As for some light entertainment to keep minds busy, The Lawyer has been running a ‘law against loneliness’ blog, sent out on email at 3 pm each day. The content is free to access (no subscription is needed) and features themed quizzes, a video of the day, dog (or pet) of the day, and The Lawyer Listens song recommendation. Anyone in the legal sector is free to contribute!

The Law Gazette’s ‘Lawyers in lockdown: stories from the frontline’ is another fantastic read that features a handful of legal professionals each day commenting on their current situations. From Laura Uberoi of Macfarlanes who ‘returned’ from maternity leave the week lockdown started to Eugene McQuaid of Freshfields, a consultant for EU regulatory & public affairs consultant based in Brussels who has adapted to life without his pistachio coffee from the local café. 

You can also check out The Brief archives online for legal career-related interviews, opinions and insights: https://www.bcllegal.com/the-brief and the BCL Knowledgebase for articles written by our team of experts https://www.bcllegal.com/knowledge-base/from-the-team

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