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LCN Says

Coronavirus Q&A for students

updated on 30 June 2020

LawCareers.Net has collated and answered your questions relating to coronavirus and its impact on your journey into the legal profession.

How will my exams be affected by coronavirus?

LPC exams can now be sat online at home, after the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) relaxed rules to ensure that junior lawyers qualify on time. LPC providers can run electives assessments via alternative means. Core assessment providers must apply to the SRA for approval and several measures are in place to guarantee that exams are ‘proctored’ – for example, timed and with software which monitors the computer’s desktop, webcam video and audio.

Bar Professional Training Course exams will be moved online, according to the Bar Standards Board (BSB). The BSB is yet to reveal how the Bar exams will work online but it has promised to release further guidance in due course.

Universities and law schools can run law degree and GDL exams online – see this advice on how to effectively prepare for online exams.

Are law firms recruiting this summer? Will I still be able to get a training contract?

Yes – many firms are going ahead with recruitment this summer despite the global pandemic. Some firms are deferring training contract start dates and some firms have paused recruitment entirely. A number of vacation schemes have been moved online.

LawCareers.Net has information on which law firms are recruiting this summer and a list of firms that have moved vacation schemes online.

Will law firms look at my grades differently if I achieved them in 2020?

No. Even in normal times there is no difference in value between an online GDL and a GDL studied on campus – they’re the same qualification.

How will coronavirus affect my first year at university?

While lots of universities are revealing their plans for the autumn term, it remains unclear how many are planning to adopt social distancing measures. You can contact your chosen university for updates on their decisions and we will do our best to bring you information as and when it is available.

The University of Cambridge has confirmed that all lectures will be held online for the entire academic year.

The University of Manchester, Reading and Queen’s Belfast have all confirmed that lectures will move online for the autumn term. Meanwhile, Keele University revealed its plans to implement a five-stage alert system to support its decision-making in this regard.

The University of Aberdeen said it is delaying the start of the autumn term by two weeks, while Durham University has revised its initial decision to move teaching completely online.

Despite the global pandemic and the move to online learning for many, the government has announced that students in England will still be required to pay full tuition fees.

Are vacation schemes still happening?

A number of firms have moved their vacation schemes online and are continuing to recruit via their online vacation schemes, including Baker McKenzie, Slaughter and May, and White & Case (see a full and updated list of vacation schemes).

Meanwhile, several firms have cancelled their summer vacation schemes, including Forsters, Herbert Smith Freehills and Hogan Lovells.

How can I get the most out of a virtual vacation scheme?

A virtual vacation scheme will undoubtably be a very different experience to that of physically being at the firm. That said, there are a number of ways that you can make sure you make the most of your virtual vacation scheme.

How do I motivate myself during this period?

As we continue to weather the effects of covid-19, it is important that you don’t lose sight of your end goal.

Member of the Junior Lawyers Division executive committee and real estate finance solicitor Adam Hattersley recently shared his experience after graduating university with a law degree in 2010 – two years after the global financial crisis. He believes that his experience can be applied to the latest cohort as they enter the legal profession at what is an incredibly uncertain time. There are also several ways that you can keep yourself busy, on track and motivated. You can find a list of 15 podcasts that we think all aspiring lawyers should be listening to and – while face-to-face networking is off the cards for the foreseeable future – there are several tips on how to activate or continue to grow your online networks via platforms like LinkedIn available.

Should I discuss covid-19’s impact on businesses in applications/interviews, etc?

Absolutely, this is commercial awareness – one of the key skills that law firms look for in future trainees. As an aspiring lawyer you should always be aware of current events and the latest news stories. When attending an interview, make sure you are up to date with the morning’s news stories – not just a general understanding but an understanding of how a particular event or issue might affect law firms as businesses themselves, and how it might affect the clients for whom the firms work.

For more information on what commercial awareness is and how to develop yours visit LCN’s commercial awareness page. Or for some tips on ways to develop your commercial awareness during the global pandemic, take a look at Harry Clark’s recent blog posts – in particular, ‘How to develop commercial awareness during covid-19’.

How can I prepare for a virtual interview?

Even before the UK went into lockdown, video interviews were a popular assessment tool among hiring employers. If you’re preparing for a video interview, consider the following:

  • Have you sufficiently planned the structure of your answers? If yes, make sure you practise them out loud and talk at a measured and clear pace.
  • Make sure you have set up your computer in advance and find a quiet space in your home to take the interview.
  • Are you comfortable looking directly into the camera? If not, this is something to work on before your interview.

You can find more tips on how to prepare for a virtual interview in our guide to video interviews Feature and our recent YouTube video filled with useful dos and donts.

What should I do if my work experience isn’t happening right now because of coronavirus?

If you have been offered work experience it means you’re on the right track with applications, so although it might not be happening given the current circumstances, continue to apply for virtual schemes. Look at the delayed scheme as something in the bank for later.

Should I mention my cancelled work experience on my training contract applications?

Unless you have actually completed a scheme, it is probably not worth mentioning on your application.

Is it still worth applying for a training contract if you haven’t done a vacation scheme?

Yes, look for firms accepting direct training contract applications.

Will some of these virtual opportunities be available to secondary school aged students?

Vacation schemes will not be available to secondary school aged students, but law firms do visit schools – they might look at doing this virtually in the event of lockdown in 2021 but this is not guaranteed.

Will I still qualify on time?

The SRA has relaxed professional training rules to ensure that trainees will qualify on time.

Will the SQE still be implemented in 2021?

The coronavirus pandemic has not yet resulted in any delays to the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) being implemented, you can keep up to date with everything on LawCareers.Net’s SQE information hub.

Is there anything I can be doing during lockdown to support my legal career prospects?

Yes, there are plenty of things you can be doing to support your journey into the legal profession, including analysing your work experience, catching up with the latest developments (eg, SQE news and how the route to becoming a barrister is changing), boosting your commercial awareness and updating your LinkedIn profile, as well as watching law-related YouTube videos and listening to podcasts.

For more ideas, take a look at our recent LCN Says ‘Five tips for staying focused on your legal career during coronavirus quarantine’.

Olivia Partridge is the content and engagement coordinator at LawCareers.Net.