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Trainees flock home to mum and dad amid coronavirus pandemic

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Be a magic circle hotshot from your childhood bedroom

We’re living in treacherous times: crashing stock markets, stockpiling and police-enforced lockdowns as the world continues to battle the novel COVID-19 virus.

Our own Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who recently announced he had contracted coronavirus, the first world leader to do so, has put in place strict social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus.

We’ve seen a number of law firms heed government advice and implement full remote working policies for their staff. What was previously considered an employee ‘perk’ is now the mainstream and is likely to stay this way for the foreseeable future.

Amid this unprecedented scenario, and the fact we’re still unsure how long the pandemic will last, Legal Cheek has spotted a trend of trainee solicitors heading back to their family homes to work there. It is often said that if you want to do top drawer corporate work the place for that is the City of London, where many global law firms have their bases. Yet, why have rookies flocked from the capital in droves back to mum and dad’s?

The obvious reason is that juniors whom live alone or have no close relatives nearby will need support should they fall severely ill. In these circumstances, family is perhaps best to turn to. In turn, they may want to take care of their elderly parents and grandparents should they be struck with COVID-19 symptoms.

Plus with the capital becoming the coronavirus hotspot (London accounts for the majority of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the UK: 10,247 cases and 1,054 reported deaths at the time of writing) can you blame them for wanting to leave?

On this point one rookie told us:

“I know of a lot of trainees that have decided to relocate out of London. I think there are a few reasons for this: the virus is more prevalent in London, it is harder to get food and supplies here, the City is generally not where you want to be during a pandemic. Standards of living are likely to be higher at the family home where your food will be bought for you.”

They added: “Most trainees live in tiny flats which don’t really allow for working at home — I know of one trainee who has had to buy a chair and desk!”

One insider said they simply do not have the means to print reams of documents from their flat share so heading to their parent’s place which has a spare room, a printer and suitable office equipment (as well as “peace and quiet”!) seemed the obvious move.

Another told us that trainees and even associates are heading back home to work from home well, because they can. Technology in place at most corporate firms means they can log in to work wherever, whenever. Whether that’s from the garden or your parent’s living room.

We reached out to Irwin Mitchell junior associate and vlogger Chrissie Wolfe for her take on things.

“Everybody works differently and it massively depends on your home situation too. Many junior lawyers may well still be house-sharing and if everyone is house-bound it may be more difficult to work there,” the ‘Law and Broader’ YouTube star told us. “Also, for some people it may be cheaper to take advantage of moving to your parents for a few weeks and there may be more space/privacy there as well depending on your normal living situation.”

Wolfe added:

“I would have gone to my parents if I could but they are isolating and in a high risk category so I have taken the decision to stay at my home. I live on my own so, personally, I would prefer to be around family rather than completely alone. I still have a desk set-up in my room at home from where I used to revise for exams but I don’t have the same set-up in my home as I have never worked remotely until now!”

Legal YouTube star and Linklaters trainee solicitor Eve Cornwell left London prior to the lockdown and returned to her family home in the North West.

“I know that I’m going to be so much better with my family right now rather than in an apartment by myself, and so because of that we gotta take steps… to protect myself, to protect my family, to protect my mental health to ensure that I still am working efficiently at my job. There’s just so many things to take into consideration that I guess I kinda forgot would be important to take into consideration,” she tells viewers in a vlog posted to her channel last month.

Cornwell then proceeds to pack up her home office set-up is picked up by her father (house plants in tow!) to make the four-hour journey home.

Like Links, a magic circle firm, others have accommodated trainees wanting to work from home further afield, and even abroad. A spokesperson at Allen & Overy told us: “We are supportive of trainees working from home abroad during this time, subject to relevant regulatory and other requirements.”

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

Other junior lawyers haven’t been so fortunate.

There appears to be a discrepancy in how some law firms are applying their ‘work from home’ policies during the lockdown. We’re told some prevent trainees from going home to areas outside of England, Scotland or Wales, or internationally, which impacts trainees living further afield disproportionately.

A request by one City trainee to work remotely overseas, to be with their parents who were displaying symptoms of the virus, was denied because the firm said they should be able to return physically to work within a reasonable time. They were given the option to take unpaid leave.

In another instance one rookie said their request to work from their family home outside Europe was denied. This came despite them offering to work to UK hours and their home country’s government urging its citizens to return. They claim they weren’t stopped from going so long as they took unpaid or annual leave for the entire duration of the stay. Given the uncertainty that surrounds the current COVID-19 crisis, this could mean they would have to stop working for an unknown, and perhaps lengthy, period of time. Legal Cheek understands taking a lengthy period of unpaid leave could affect overseas trainees’ work visas.

“This was in essence no real choice at all. I am being forced to choose between being able to work and my future career, and my own health, safety and wellbeing,” the trainee told Legal Cheek. “To put it bluntly, the firm was all too willing to risk my health and safety. This was despite there being a clear option which would allow me to continue working in a safe environment.”

“The firm has chosen to apply a one-size-fits-all policy to every single trainee who raises such a request, without considering their personal circumstances,” they continued. “For such a one-size-fits-all policy to be a fair one, the population that it is being applied to must be homogeneous.” That’s a knock-back to diversity, the rookie said, explaining: “to retain a diverse pool of talent, [a firm’s] policies have to be rooted in flexibility.”

We’ve been forced somewhat to adopt new ways of working amid the current circumstances but it’ll be interesting to see what, if any, measures influence the future of legal practice. Digital dependancy is likely to last for the foreseeable future; so that technically means you could be a magic circle hotshot from your childhood bedroom.

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48 Comments

Anonymous

What even is this article?

Trainees working from home choose to… work from home?

Are you still bitter that you couldn’t get a TC?

Jezza

Brothers! Sisters!

Keir Starmer will continue Jeremy Corbyn’s legacy of winning the argument on a new socialist economic model, solidarity with refugees from the third world, and joining the euro!

Down with metropolitan elites!

VOTE LABOUR

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!!!

Anonymous

This mindless spam only makes me want to vote Conservative in the next election

Anonymous

I think that’s their plan

Remove this please - Ed.

‘Online blogger, Alex, said “I don’t see the big deal really, I’ve been living at my mum’s since 2008 and it’s been fine’.”

London Lawyer

Are these trainee solicitors and lawyers and partners of the future or children? Heading home at the first sight of a challenge so mummy and daddy can feed you and get your weekly shop from the local village store and let you use their printer. This is embarrassing and precisely what NOT to do when the lockdown was announced – leaving London to go and wait it out in the regions is not an effective lockdown, it’s an effective spread of the virus. So selfish. So what if you live in a small apartment with a flatmate or by yourself and can’t get your weekly avocado. People are dying. People are being fired left right and centre. People are risking their lives to help others and our lawyers of the future worry about having an office chair and a printer and a mummy and daddy to do their food shop. Shocking.

Anon

Ok boomer

Anonymous

So dull you have no original material? How tragic to be so basic.

Anonymous

Why go to the parental home when you can play with the current squeeze knowing they are going to be dumped when this is over because when this is over it is going to be a crazy summer Tinderfest?

Bob

No downside is asking for filth in that situation either.

Anonymous

When is legal cheek going to finally get the hint that we don’t care for eve CornyAsHell.

Post something useful for once

Kian

This is fantastic news! So the Magic Circle trainees are no longer pulling all nighters in an office but sweating it out from their bedrooms. How interesting legal cheek, keep up the great work

Anon

Unless their mum and dad have got a secure shredding collection trainees shouldn’t be printing anything at home.

I get this if you live alone, mental health is important.

However, if you live with flat mates or a partner (must be at least 80%) grow the f**k up.

Anon

So spreading the virus around the regions then. Great move

Anonymous

It was spreading anyway. No guilt.

Anon

And it will spread faster and more exponentially as a result of people “flocking” to their parents like this. Causing more deaths.

Anonymous

You should get an internship with the Daily Mail with hysteria like that. If they go somewhere that requires fewer external social interactions there will be reduction in spread. Either way the differences will be immaterial.

Anon

That must be why the scientific advice is to head straight for second homes or parents’ homes where there will be “fewer external social interactions”. Except, oh wait. It’s not.

Also I live in London and haven’t left my flat for about two weeks so I’m not sure where you get your social interaction theory from.

Anonymous

One person leaving the home to get food leads to an average daily interaction of less than 1. Fewer active households fewer interactions. In the urban environment there are far more average interactions for the same activity than in the rural or suburban environment.

anon

Perhaps you should advise the Government that their advice not to head for second homes is wrong, then. Since you’re an expert.

Anon

6:16, the second home advice is not based on medical reasons, it is based on the fact that there would be social abrasion if the wealthy could move to second homes while the lower classes had to stay in a single abode. The government literature is full of such nanny state rubbish. The government even mentioned that golf courses would need to shut when working class entertainment such as football and racing was closed down.

Joe

If we’re being honest most of these trainees wouldn’t think twice about working in their regional cities if the law firms outside London paid decent money

Anon

Working from home is more luxurious than the dusty Linklaters office which is crying for a renovation

Into

Clifford Chance has literally removed half the desks in the time people have been working from home. Half the firm isn’t going back.

Larry

Utterly pathetic. Bunch of snowflakes.

lol

In most part this article would only apply to a trainee with rich parents, living in a big house (the casual spare room office), money (to pay for your food, which is assumed for some reason) and good facilities (this industrial printer)

Anonymous

Shows why it makes sense to err towards recruiting the private school applicants.

Reality

If that is your test for being rich, then I don’t think there would be many that don’t have rich parents

Anon

You think most people have a “spare room office” in their houses?

Anon

Who have kids who are City lawyers? Yeah.

Assuming you had a bedroom for each kid plus a spare bedroom (pretty standard middle class set up) back when the kids were younger, so long as not all of the kids are back and WFH, you’ll have loads of space.

Reality

My parents do. It is really a 4th bedroom but it is quite a small room so they turned it into a study. My parent’s aren’t exactly rich though – just a normal suburban house. No luxuries, but especially now kids have moved out I think spare rooms and offices are completely normal. We aren’t talking swimming pools or jacuzzis.

Anon

Shame they didn’t bother teaching you to use apostrophes.

Anon

Shame they did not teach Anon 4:34 that contractions are only used in direct speech.

Trainee

Trainee here. Of course I moved home the moment we were told to stop coming into the office. I could either spend months alone in my tiny one bedroom flat or months with my loving family in their larger house. If I become severely ill there will be people to look after me, I have company and a lot more space. Much better for our mental health, particularly given how stressful these months will be. Obvious choice.

I can only assume the people calling us ‘snowflakes’ etc are naturally so unpleasant that there is no-one willing to take them in during this time.

Larry

I have a wife. We would rather not go to my parents or the in-laws. Sorry, it was a little hasty of me to fail to think of the position of singletons before making my snowflake comment. I am naturally unpleasant but even if it was our choice to go to one of our parents then they would take us in.

Millennial too

I live alone in a small studio flat in London and do you know what I’m staying put, having my one exercise a day and doing online shopping. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, it’s difficult and at times I do feel very alone but I think of the thousands of people who are in much a worse situation than I am. In the grand scheme of things it’s really not that bad and I certainly would leave London to potentially spread the virus to my older mum and dad.

Work from home for a couple of months, get into a decent Netflix series and exercise by walking or running round your neighbourhood.

If you are bored maybe try some new recipes or support your locally-owned takeaways.

Trainees these days are too entitled. By the way I’m only a few years PQE and a “millennial”

Trainee

Too entitled?

You just said “It’s not easy, it’s not fun, it’s difficult and at times I do feel very alone”.

If I have the option to easily avoid putting myself in that position by driving home before the lockdown was imposed, why does that make me entitled?

David

By the time the lockdown was announced it was very well known that symptoms did not show until you had been infected for a number of days. You put your parents at risk by doing what you did, for the sake of not feeling lonely for a relatively short period of time. I would never do anything like that to endanger my parents. I am not sure whether that makes you entitled, but it makes you reckless at the very least.

Random passer-by

Hear hear youngster. I haven’t agreed so completely with a comment on legalcheek for years.

Heart

Until now I always got by on my own. I never really cared until I met you. And now it chills me to the bone… how do I get you alone?

plant-based

not just trainees, associates who choose to head home to Singapore (where its definitely more prepared to tackle covid-19 than Europe) were told to take unpaid leave until they return to London. only links and A&O btw that enforces this – no other firm does it and HR despite trotting this hardline, doesnt seem to know the exact reason why this is policy.

open minded

Could the motivations be freudian?

JDP

I’m also working from home. Life is tough, there are no summer interns and my wife’s been sleeping with the pool guy again. Joke is on her because the nanny is live-in.

Anon.

I am a pupil barrister, and I returned back home. I am high risk, and my flat mates were not respecting this – they also haven’t respected the rules following lockdown. If I had stayed at my flat, I would have been placing myself at risk, whereas returning home (having displayed no symptoms) was best for my health, and wellbeing. My parents aren’t high risk, and actively encouraged my return. I think people need to be cautious about making generalisations, as not everyone returned home for fear of being ‘lonely’, or to have mum and dad pay for their food. I’m still paying all my bills, and rent for a flat I’m not living in, whilst also contributing to the additional household bills I’m running up at my parents.

Yes I now have the benefit of an office space at home, but my house is fairly middle class and it was just a spare room my parents converted into a study space when I started high school!

I would hardly call myself entitled, or reckless and find the generalisations quite offensive!

Anon

What makes you high risk?

Anon.

I am high risk and I have a GP letter confirming the same – I don’t need to justify that, or provide the specifics of my medical background to an anonymous commentator on LC.

Anon

If you aren’t willing to show me the letter then I am not willing to show you any sympathy. You snowflake hiding behind a lie of a letter.

Bored of This

And you’re eating beans on toasts revising for your first year Tort exams

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