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Law students pessimistic about pandemic career prospects, survey shows

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But future trainees think their TC offers will still be honoured

The pandemic has upset the best laid plans of wannabe lawyers, with firms cutting pay, moving vac schemes online and starting to look at pushing back the start of training contracts.

A new report on the outlook of students and early career lawyers shows that many are worried about the legal jobs market — although those with a training contract offer lined up are confident that it won’t be snatched away.

It’s based on a survey of 433 aspiring and recently qualified lawyers in early to mid April. The answers are broken down into three categories: those still studying, those with a job lined up and those already practising.

In the first category, students overwhelmingly agreed that “COVID-19 has reduced the number of job opportunities” in the legal sector, with less than 20% dissenting from this view.

They also worry that the disruption will slow down their career progress. Over 70% of students agreed, to a greater or lesser extent, that they’ll be late to hit career milestones compared to those a few years ahead on the career path — resulting in a less impressive CV.

One student lamented the impact on summer vacation schemes:

“I secured several work placements for Summer 2020, all of which have been cancelled entirely due to the pandemic. I feel extremely disheartened because as a student from a disadvantaged background, attaining work experience was the only other thing that could enhance my CV.”

Turning to the second category, those with a training contract or pupillage confirmed are pretty confident that it’ll still go ahead. Almost 80% were confident or very confident that their offer will be honoured, although 5% strongly agreed that that “COVID-19 will cause my opportunity to be rescinded or cancelled entirely”.

But there is anger about how exam disruption has been handled, including “the lack of flexibility shown by the Solicitors Regulation Authority” over online exams (before the regulator had a change of heart).

As for the third category, junior lawyers already in practice generally reckon that the crisis will cause “significant job losses” in the legal sector. 11% strongly agreed with this proposition, and many more expressed some level of agreement.

The 2020 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Asked whether their employer was being “open, clear and supportive”, the results were distinctly mixed, with an even spread spread of responses from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

One unimpressed junior commented:

“Many firms are treating their junior lawyers despicably. With widespread redundancies, unilateral and illegal pay cuts early, putting shareholder [partner] profit ahead of employees’ welfare and job security, and expected increased billable hours while they support their families, including homeschooling children. Many will leave the profession as a result.”

Another said: “Being in the first three months of my training contract is very stressful. It was always referred to as my probation period. I was there only three weeks until I was sent home and I haven’t been told if my job is even safe or not.”

On the other hand, many seem to love working from home at least some of the time. Almost one third of newly minted lawyers picked the strongest level of agreement possible with the statement: “I want remote working to be a greater part of my role/be more available to me in future”.

That’s in line with another recent survey, which found that 61% of legal workers want more home working opportunities after the pandemic.

BPP student and future Baker McKenzie trainee Harry Clark, who carried out the survey, says that “it is critical that this group have their opinions, anxieties and recommendations heard”.

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35 Comments

Sharon

Breaking news

Anon

The quotes made me vomit at the self pity. “Disadvantaged background” bollocks and moaning about business owners taking decisions in the interests of the business.

Current Trainee

I have heard that one national firm is about to announce that it is cancelling its September and March TC intakes. Sad times.

Anon

Don’t be a twat, name the firm or shut up.

Vacs scheme offer holder

Hopefully not SPB!!!

Curious George

Is it DLA Piper? I assumed it might be as they might not be able to accommodate TCs for 70 candidates like they usually do

Monique

Breaking news

Vac scheme offer holder

But what about SPB?! No information and only over month and a bit to go!

Gagarin

Go for it, top firm

Hypeman

Lmao u high bruv, its total shet

Read the room simp

It was obviously sarcasm m8

Truther

TC’s will be cancelled and delayed on an industrial scale.
This year is going to be write off. Only reason you haven’t been told yet is firm’s are hanging on as long as they can in case a miraculous upturn in deals occurs. Barring that expect them to be wielding the axe like a blood thirsty Viking by the middle of July.

truthsiren

This, it’s gonna be biblical. I pity those sad souls who spaffed mum and dad’s money and self-funded the LPC only to see their job prospects completely evaporate.

On the other hand, those who already had the LPC paid for by their firm and about to complete it but the underlying TCs cancelled or delayed could easily coast along on temporary paralegal or doc review gigs until it turns back up again, they’re the lucky ones in this epic mess.

anon.

Happened to us all in 2008.

anon

What about those with a TC secured for 2021 and due to start the LPC this Autumn?

truthsiren

Still OK I think, law firms won’t be jumping to conclusions for the 2021 intake yet. If anything, it will be the 2020 crop that’ll get torched first.

ex-US firm highly exposed to deals

The axe has already hit for some I’m afraid…

God Force

I expect it will be less brutal for firms with robust litigation department.

Don't worry be happy

They can always do porn.

JDP

We have a 100% recruitment rate from that talent pool

Anonymous

Why are law students worried? When I graduated in 1996, I sent three applications by mail and almost immediately got the TC. Obviously things were a bit different back then but I am sure they will get a TC if they try hard enough.

1st Year Trainee

Top trolling

Anon

How’s your burger flipping experience guys?

fUtUre vAc sCHemEr

The economy will bounce back and the jobs with it. The jobs came back post 2008, they will again. They’ll just have to stagger the intake for the TCs a bit more, but it’s certainly not the end of the line for BigLaw job opportunities.

Disgruntled Applicant

I was pessimistic before all the covid rubbish began…

Suspicious

Wonder how much Harry Clark paid to get LC to feature this report.

At this testing time, what the world doesn’t want is another legal blogger bragging about his TC under the guise of giving other people tips and advice.

James

Is it so hard to believe he has no agenda? Asshole.

PEPE

Hi Henry.

James

Prove it then come back. Dickhead

PEPE

Ok Henry.

Anonymous

Fear not the great Brexit dividend is yet to come, and we will all feast on the wealth generated from our freedom from the EUSSR.

Anon

Completely agree with the junior who commented that firms are treating their lawyers and support staff despicably to cut costs.

I also wanted to add that large US firms are doing the same and are resorting to stealth layoffs to avoid media coverage.

Anonymous

Yes, law firms are charities and not run for the benefit of their owners.

C.A.

Has nothing to do with being a charity.

You clearly have never been through a stealth layoff. I understand and agree that firms need to reduce costs but there are many decent ways of doing that, laying off people through stealth dismissals should not be one of them.

Deed U No

Give me remote working-
Or give me death!

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