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Exclusive: City law firms to cover vac schemers wasted expenses amid COVID-19 disruption

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Large number of spring programmes put on hold

City law firms have pledged to cover postponed spring vac schemers’ wasted expenses, Legal Cheek can reveal.

In recent weeks we’ve seen a number of law firms heed government advice and postpone their spring vacation schemes in view of the COVID-19 crisis. The majority were due to run from Monday (30 March) until early to mid-April. A total of 18 law firms have taken this action so far.

Now some law firms have said they will reimburse reasonable expenses incurred by students as a result of planning for their now-suspended spring vacation schemes. Typical expenses to be refunded include but are not limited to pre-booked flights, train tickets or hotel accommodation. The first port of call would be to claim a refund directly with the company but failing that, all of the law firms we spoke to said they’ll step in and cover the cost. So far this hasn’t been an issue at any of the firms we were in contact with, and no student has been in touch to claim a refund.

The majority of law firms have said they will reschedule their spring vacation schemes at a later date this year, with most citing the summer depending on what the situation is then.

The law firms we spoke to are currently working with the individuals affected to find a suitable time to reschedule their spring vacation schemes. One City outfit said: “We’re gathering [the students’] availability to make sure we can accommodate as many of [them] as possible during the summer.”

Some law firms have merged their spring vacation schemes with their existing summer ones, whilst others have scheduled an additional week or two in the summer exclusively for their spring vac schemers. Legal Cheek understands this is unlikely to affect the number of training contract offers a firm makes.

Another law firm told us:

“We’re going to do everything we can to find an alternative date that works for our spring vac schemers. The scheme will then proceed as normal, including in relation to remuneration.”

So while some spring vac schemers were looking forward to being paid what can be around £400-£450 for each week they work with a firm whilst on a vac scheme, Legal Cheek can confirm all of the firms we spoke to said they’ll be paid once they take part in the rescheduled scheme.

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

This may be problematic for students that will have lined up multiple schemes in both the spring and summer — the dates may clash and they may find themselves being unable to make a revised spring scheme date. In this instance Legal Cheek understands some law firms are offering the option to be interviewed directly for a training contract. However, competition for these places will be limited. It is unclear at this stage whether students opting for this route will be remunerated.

Spring vacation schemes are predominantly open to final-year students and graduates. The latter are likely to be working, and will have taken time off to complete the scheme (whether paid or unpaid). It is unclear from our conversations with law firms what the likely recourse for these individuals will be.

Much uncertainty abounds the novel COVID-19 virus and so it’ll be interesting to see how all this pans out. The UK is facing lockdown for a minimum of three weeks with some saying social distancing measures may well be needed for up to a year. Vacation schemes are open to students and graduates from across the UK and overseas to experience life at a firm, and often have a number of social activities scheduled for the week(s).

Five-hundred students and future trainees tuned in this week to our first virtual event, ‘What does COVID-19 mean for future lawyers’, to hear the Legal Cheek team discuss the impact of the pandemic on vacation scheme and training contract start dates. Despite the optimistic discussion, eighty-four percent of participants thought summer vac schemes will not go ahead as normal. It remains to be seen whether the pandemic impacts the next application round but some students voiced concerns that virtual interviews for upcoming schemes are already starting to take place. With moves towards more agile ways of working, could we see virtual vacation schemes becoming a reality?

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4 Comments

Alan

Online is probably get go the way in. I think need to get student listen online and study to learn how to be lawyer. Have the technology so go and utilise the opportunities. Can not have fear of going to what is to be a future for better everyone.

Broken Britiain

Speak English, you pleb.

Frustrated Writer

Alex wiped the sleep from his eyes, and slapped himself a couple of times of his cheeks to wake himself up. Last night had been hard. His mum had forgotten to get him his usual bottle of Sainsbury’s Basics vodka, claiming it had been sold out due to panic buyers, but he doubted that. It was pretty transparent that it was her latest attempt to get him off the alcohol he so needed. Instead the mix of paraffin from an old camping stove he found in the attic and some dubious white spirit from the back of the garage shelf had had to serve the purpose. The hangover, whilst familiar, was far from pleasant.

Alex pepped himself up again. He’d done this before, it was easy, he told himself. Just affect a young, innocent voice and be persistent. Inwardly he tried to picture himself as his 22 year old self, fresh from university and full of hope. As soon as Alex had summoned the image he suppressed it. Trying to marry up that young man with the haggered, drunken mess of today was not comfortable.

Clearing his throat, Alex picked up his heavily scratched iPhone 5 and dialled a number. After a short time, a female voice answered. “Good morning, RPC, how may I help?”

Alex cleated his throat again, and spoke in a slightly higher octave than usual. “Oh, sorry to bother you ma’am, may I please speak with Sarah Stevens in your graduate team?” He knew full well he was speaking with Ms Stevens, as he had called her direct dial, but knew this would detract from his deception.

“Speaking” she replied. Her voice was friendly. She clearly was used lately to anxious calls from young people and suspected nothing. Jackpot, Alex thought.

“Great. My name is Thomas Hussain. I’m just calling about my expenses for my cancelled vacs scheme, if that’s ok” Alex said, his voice whiny but monotone. “I sent you an email with my receipts the other day”. He paused to await a response. Inside he was excited. He always thought he could pull off a life of a professional grifter, stealing from the wealthy, undeserving class and living the high life off the profits like a self serving Robin Hood. This was the first step on that path.

“Just bear with me a second, Thomas, whilst I look you up”. Alex could hear the distinctive tapping of keys on a keyboard as the kindly law firm employee searched. “Ah, yes, got it now” she finally said. “I thought this was a joke from one of my colleagues. I’m glad you called”. Alex gulped. This may not be as easy as he had hoped.

“Oh, no, it’s all real, can I just give you my payment details? Are you familiar with Western Union? Or maybe PayPal would be better?” He was desperate to get on to the next stage, and hoping that there would be no more questions. The reply only made things worse, though.

“First things first, Mr Hussain. Can I just check the spelling of your name? It seems we don’t have a record of you on any of your our vacs schemes.” Sarah’s voice was quizzical, almost confused.

“H-U-S-S-A-I-N, the usual. I was enrolled in the Easter scheme, honest” Alex said, trying not to show his desperation. Surely that IT guy at RPC had put that name on the list? Alex had bribed him with his last case of Special Brew. It was all he had.

“Nope, nothing” Sarah replied. “I’m sorry Mr Hussain, I’ll check again with my manager later, but even if we find you I will need some more evidence from you for your claim”. Sarah was still business like, a ray of hope for Alex.

“Oh, really, like what?” Alex asked, trying to sound calm, despite his racing pulse. “Didn’t you see the attachments to my email?” He’d spent all evening putting that together, he didn’t want to be left with nothing to show for it.

“Well, you’ll need to prove that you do live in The Maldives for starters” Sarah began, her patient voice straining. “Secondly, you’ll need to clarify why your flight departs London to The Maldives and comes back two weeks later, not the other way around. And, I’m not sure the firm would spring for a first class ticket”. She paused before continuing. “We would also not be able to pay you a four figure sum per day for food and drink”.

Alex tried to reply. “Well, yeah, it’s very simple, erm, I’ll email you ok?” He couldn’t think, his head was pounding with stress. Maybe he should’ve watched Hustle once more for tips.

Sarah’s reply was scathing. “If you do, please make sure your receipts aren’t done in biro, ok, Alex?” The jig was up. “I thought I recognised your voice from that grad event you came to. I remembered you came on to every woman in the room, telling them you were a top executive at a legal publication. We were all disgusted and only didn’t report you out of sympathy because you were such a mess.” Her voice was now firm and insistent. “Any more stunts like this and I’ll call the police.” She hung up abruptly.

Alex sighed. He had already got his sun tan lotion for his holiday, but that would have to wait. His daily hunt around his house for his booze fix would begin early today.

frustrated vac schemer

Meanwhile SPB silent as per usual

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