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Solicitors

Coronavirus information for students

updated on 30 March 2020

This is a hub for all the information you need about changes to legal recruitment and education in response to coronavirus. Check this page regularly for updates on work placement schemes, exam timings, course start dates and more.

Keep up with the ongoing impact of coronavirus on all areas of commercial law with Lexology.

Work experience

Spring vacation schemes

So far, the following firms have suspended their spring vacation schemes:

Summer vacation schemes

Check this section regularly for updates. 

Mini-pupillage

Several barristers’ chambers have postponed their mini-pupillage schemes, The Lawyer reports. So far, the following chambers have announced mini-pupillage cancellations:

Meanwhile, Blackstone Chambers is enabling students to undertake mini-pupillages through remote working.

Solicitor and barrister training

Training contract

Law firms have yet to announce any delays to training contract start dates. However, with no known timeframe on how long it will take to fight the coronavirus pandemic despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prediction that the UK will “turn the tide” of the disease within 12 weeks, it is impossible to be certain whether training contracts will commence on their original dates. 

Some of those due to commence training contracts in early March have already had to delay their start dates due to self-isolating after returning from countries impacted by coronavirus outbreaks.

Stay tuned.

Pupillage

With the possibility that government advice on social distancing measures will remain in place for some months, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said that it is “clearly not possible to give any definite assurances about when it will be possible for potential pupils to fulfil all the requirements that they must do before commencing pupillage. These include provider-set exams, such as advocacy, as well as [Inns of Court] qualifying sessions and the BSB-set centralised exams. The impact on chambers is also as yet not quantifiable. We…will continue to talk to course providers and to the Inns and to work together to provide opportunities for requirements to be fulfilled at the earliest opportunity.”

Look out for information coming from law schools, the Inns of Court and individual barristers’ chambers about pupillage plans in the weeks and months ahead.

The Young Barristers Committee has published this information about how it is working to support young and pupil barristers

Students

Legal Practice Course (LPC)

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has told law schools not to allow to students to sit their LPC exams remotely, indicating that this year’s LPC exams are to be delayed until Autumn 2020 at the earliest. An SRA spokesperson told Legal Cheek: “We have been in touch with training providers to confirm that supervised assessments should be maintained, where they are required. It’s important that supervision is in place to ensure integrity and security and we recognise this might mean some assessments could be delayed.”

The Junior Lawyers Division has written to the SRA to express concern about the impact of delaying the exams on those due to commence training contracts in the autumn, students with underlying health conditions, international students and solicitor apprentices. If social distancing looks set to continue for many months, there may be further movement on measures to enable LPC exams to be sat at home.

Future LPC students will likely be able to start their courses on time through online learning.

Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)

The BSB has cancelled BPTC exams that were due to take place in April.

The next opportunity to take the centralised civil litigation, criminal litigation and professional ethics exams is in August 2020, but this date will remain under review as the coronavirus situation develops.

Students hoping to commence a Bar course in September 2020 currently face an uncertain situation. Some providers may press ahead with courses, many of which already include a large online learning component. However, course start dates – and indeed the start date of the whole 2020-21 academic year – remain under review. Check LawCareers.Net and individual law schools’ websites for news in the weeks ahead.

BCAT

Students must pass the BCAT to be able to progress onto a Bar course, but work still needs to be done to ensure that students can take the exam while adhering to social distancing measures. The BSB said: “We will endeavour to find a solution that will not prevent students from commencing their Bar training this year as planned.”

Law conversion and undergraduate degree

Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) exams at many universities are set to go ahead online. Law conversion courses are managed by individual universities, not the SRA.

Exams for many undergraduate degrees (law and non-law) will take place online without the need for delays. Check with your university or law school for details about how exams will go ahead.

A level, GCSE and UCAS

All GCSE and A-level exams have been cancelled. Students will be awarded grades based on their coursework, mock exam results and other evidence. For details of exams in all four home nations, see this UCAS guidance.

In a statement to students UCAS said: “Following the recent government announcements of the closure of schools and the cancellation of examinations and assessments in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, we want to reassure you that all organisations involved in the higher education admissions process are working flat out to find a solution that’s efficient, fair, and in your best interests. 

“We appreciate this is a difficult and uncertain situation for applicants planning to start university in the autumn, and we are committed to work together to ensure that your hard work to date will not go to waste, and that no-one is unfairly impacted in this process by the COVID-19 virus.”

The government’s universities minister, Michelle Donelan said: “There is no reason for the usual admissions cycle to be disrupted.”