News

Profession must look after junior lawyers screwed over by the pandemic, Supreme Court judge warns

By on
19

Lord Hodge says there shouldn’t be ‘lasting detriment’ to those starting their career

Supreme Court justice Lord Hodge says that his fellow legal bigwigs should be looking out for junior lawyers who’ve been screwed over by the pandemic.

The court’s vice-president took to Zoom to warn that “training opportunities have been seriously disrupted” and the profession must “ensure that there is not lasting detriment” to those in the early stages of their career.

In a speech delivered on 5 November and published by the Supreme Court yesterday, Hodge looked back on how the courts throughout the UK and Ireland had adapted to the crisis.

He reckons that his own court had coped well by going remote, citing tech guru Richard Susskind’s comment that the “UK Supreme Court has responded more emphatically and successfully than any of its equivalents internationally”. No hearings were cancelled by the court even during the height of the first wave, although some were adjourned at the request of one side or the other.

But Hodge acknowledged that not all lower courts have the technology or relatively straightforward logistics of the Supreme Court, with jury trials in particular posing a “major difficulty”.

The 2021 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

And he said that despite the relative success of the system in keeping the show on the road, the crisis was storing up problems for the future. The criminal trial backlog (which it should be said already existed pre-pandemic) has grown, with Hodge warning of a “real concern that justice delayed is justice denied”.

In his recorded address to the British Irish Commercial Bar Association, the 67-year-old said that he was also concerned about the youth:

The pandemic has reduced the opportunities for young lawyers to develop their careers by watching court cases and having easy access to more senior members of the profession from whom they can learn. Training opportunities have been seriously disrupted. It is important that the profession bears in mind the difficulties which the pandemic has created for young lawyers when better times return and acts to ensure that there is not lasting detriment.

Looking ahead to when the pandemic ends, the Scottish judge reckons that the Supremes “will not stick with remote hearings” once they have a choice in the matter but will stay pretty digital, with electronic bundles permanently replacing dead trees.

19 Comments

Titan

He’s right you know

Anonymous

Unfortunately true. As someone who is fresh from my LPC looking for job, I am expected to have raked in 3-5 years of experience to even be considered for an ‘entry-level’ position. It’s ridiculous.

L

That’s always been the case. It’s ridiculous but that’s not the result of the pandemic. You should have been told this before you started the LPC;m, it’s why you shouldn’t do it without a TC confirmed.

Realist

This is excellent advice. Never self-fund the LPC. If law firms are telling you that you’re not good enough for them to want to employ you (i.e. by not offering you a training contract), BELIEVE THEM. If you self-fund your LPC all you’re demonstrating is a lack of self-awareness and commercial awareness. You’re also wasting ££££ and a year of your life. The SQE will of course change this slightly, but the same broad approach applies: ig you’re not good enough to be sponsored by a law firm, you’re not good enough. Wasting money on an attendance course won’t help.

Even before Covid, there was already an oversupply of NQs (i.e. post training contract) looking for NQ positions in law firms. Trainees are a cost burden – firms which are able to do so would rather laterally recruit good NQs who want to move on qualification. Very few firms really need trainees in the current, highly uncertain environment.

I’ll say it again for those at the back of the room: NEVER SELF-FUND YOUR LPC – IF YOU CAN’T SECURE A TRAINING CONTRACT, DO SOMETHING ELSE.

SN O'Flake

But Mummy told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. I shall listen to my heart and follow my dreams. I will not listen to you or anyone else. If I focus the universe will manifest.

Forever Associate

I would wind this back a bit from “never self-fund the LPC” to where the last past was; don’t take on the LPC without a TC confirmed. Most of the ~5500 TCs offered a year will not offer full (if any) GDL/LPC funding.

Pause to allow for the “if not MC/SC/US firm why bother?” group to move on…

Being a lawyer can be a good career no matter what firm/business or practice area you are in, as long as both suit you. So even if you have to self fund the LPC because your training firm is smaller or just tight-fisted, I would say it’s worth it.

Law observer

I have to disagree with this blanket statement. My daughter self-funded the LPC, worked for a year as a paralegal and picked up a training contract with a London law firm that was ranked 12th in the country. She now works for the US dollar earning more than some partners in her old firm!

Anonymous

One mythical swallow does not a summer make.

Luco

I bet Mr Susskind has had a raging hard-on the past few months with all this talk about technology in the courts. In fact, I can see him prophesising to be the messiah next.

Anonymous

I AM THE MESSIAH

Brian's Mother

No, you’re not, you’re a very naughty boy.

Anonymous

Why? The strongest shall flourish. The weak will find out the truth a bit earlier than they would otherwise. It is probably a good thing for everyone.

Richard

Well, if the Supreme Court says so, that’ll change everything!

Firms have hundreds of applicants for their places, so zero incentive to make changes. Competition is stiff, and HR send emails saying they cannot provide feedback due to the overwhelming number of applicants etc. Why should they change the system when it is so much in demand?

Legal Cheek had a networking event today and 1800 people turned up. It was a mess!
Desperate people clamouring for advice, and all the firms could say in response was “find your authentic voice”.

To all the new students and future trainees, good luck!

Sex & Violins

Even people with TC’s are going to get screwed the way things are looking. Lots of NQs at places like DWF seem to be at real risk, and where the hell are they all going to go?

Abcde

I really think firms have failed to rise to the challenge of training and supporting junior staff remotely. In the beginning it was all talk of make sure you include trainees on all calls! Lots of zooms to catch up and explain! and then in practice like…we were just left to our own devices. No-one had time to talk to us or answer questions and there was no sympathy whatsoever for how hard it is to operate as a trainee or an NQ alone, in a team you may have never met in person or in a new practice area. Its a totally different ball game as a senior associate working from home because at least you have the knowledge base to work independently.

Asquith

As with acting there are thousands of people who not knowing the reality that the law is a form of prostitution (‘who pays can have anything’), do law courses and find they have wasted their time and built up absurd debt levels.

The average barrister earns about £35k
before chambers fees according to National Statistics so for every one earning £200k there are 10 earning £15k.

Now while the average solicitor earns about £45k, neither is on the pay of the typical doctor on about £80k or chartered accountants who are CEOs and Financial Directors of most enterprises and organisations and their moral compasses and happiness levels are pretty much intact compared to most lawyers who lose any morals by the age of 25.

I would encourage any potential lawyer to recognise reality and spend 5 mins reading the Annual Survey of Earnings by occupation. However in today’s narcissistic times where everyone young ‘has to be a winner’, few will.

The Law Soc and Inns pay only lip service to the future of the profession, because it is in the financial interests to milk the naive and dumb.

The term law ‘profession’ is in tatters today when most law grads can earn more working in McDonalds or Tesco and the country is so overlawyered and a race to the bottom in conduct that morals are practically non existent.

Just read the legal press and realise for every lawyer caught out by the regulators there are 100 more who get way with it on a daily basis

Noodles

Really great comment. I do think students need to start doing more proper research into law as career. I was stupid and naive signing up for my TC, I didn’t understand about billable hours, or how restrictive your career options become very quickly with salaries that honestly aren’t great for the level of stress and misery involved. There are so many easier and more interesting ways to make money than law.

Chiri

My experience is I qualified in a small high street firm and there was no job for me at the end. At interviews I’m told I have either too much experience or not enough, what does that really mean. It’s a stressful time😔

20-something

WAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!

THE WORLD OWES ME A LIVING!!!!!

Join the conversation

Related Stories