24 / 06 / 20
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtably rocked the boat for all law students and law graduates in the coming years. It can be daunting to think about the detrimental impact of the pandemic when comparing it to future job prospects within the legal sector; But I hope to put into perspective that there will still be opportunities for law students regardless. It cannot be denied that this year’s graduates, as well as upcoming ones, may have a harder time securing work than previous years. This is especially the case as many firms now have to dramatically decrease their trainee intake and with other firms cancelling traineeships altogether for this year, we must look at the positives and how we can still make it in the legal sector.
Drawing similarities between the pandemic and the Great Recession is probably the biggest indication for law students on what their career path may look like. Graduating from law in the coming years could make our career paths a little different than we expected but it is important to remember it does not make becoming a solicitor impossible. One of the most important traits that law students must now uphold is flexibility. This is, of course, not what any of us had planned and it will most likely be more difficult for some of us to gain traineeships. But this should not be something that dampens our spirits, the true test will be how you, as a student, adapt to these new circumstances.
Applying for traineeships already incurs fierce competition and with the likelihood being that the number of traineeship positions will decrease, this competition will only increase. Therefore, it will be more important now more than ever to not allow yourself to be disheartened by any rejection. Making your way into the legal sector is difficult, it is no use denying this, and so a strong character is required. Bagging a job is more than possible, albeit it could take us as graduates a bit longer to do so, but with determination and hard work we will get there. We just have to ensure resilient self-belief optimism.
As a law student you must be commercially aware, and this is becoming ever more important. The legal market will change as a result of the pandemic and keeping watch over the sector for which areas of law are rising and falling is beneficial to your success. For example, we could see a decrease in businesses specialising in property law, and if you were a student interested in this area it could be advantageous to switch your specialisation. However, if you are most passionate about an area of law where the business has decreased due to the current climate, you should not give up if it is the work you truly want to do. Gain as much experience in the field as you can and do substantial research on the firms who specialise in that field. Getting contacts, within your field of interest, whom you can do work experience with or query on how to proceed in your studies is a great extra step toward attaining a traineeship. In short, all law students should be keeping an eye on the legal sector for changes and should your chosen field be struggling it is not unwise to widen your range.
On the other hand, as we witness a decrease in certain legal fields, it can be said with confidence that many new opportunities will also be available. Some firms will be offering traineeships primarily at a work from home basis. Moreover, legal areas such as family law are likely to see a spike in business following the pandemic. Students must do their research into what truly interests them within the legal sector and what is realistically obtainable following the Coronavirus outbreak. Deciding on a specialisation early gives you time to gain experience and prepare for the specific firms you will be applying to. Many skills are transferrable to all areas of law but if you decide earlier you can tailor your skills and expectations specifically to the field you plan on entering. While we would normally encourage students to have a broad interest across all of the legal sector, which is still something to be encouraged, it is more important now more than ever for students to be commercially aware of the impact of COVID-19 and which areas of law are most and least affected.
Commercial awareness often interlinks with current affairs and it is important for law students to be well versed in both. The most recent and globally renown current affair of course being Brexit. Whilst all of us know Coronavirus and Brexit will have an effect on the legal sector this fact alone is unlikely to impress. With competition for traineeships only getting more difficult it is critical to stand out from the crowd. Study exactly what effects the current climate has on the sector and become familiar with a few crucial areas that will apply to all firms. For example, don’t just learn about the effects Corona Virus has had on the firm, learn why they are pioneering the way in one of their practice areas or about a recent landmark case they may have been party to. As for any interview, you must be fully aware of the background of the firm you are being interviewed for and if you are going to discuss the Virus, you must know of an impact the Coronavirus has had on them specifically. All of these things will make you stand out to the interviewer and give you the best chance of gaining a trainee position.
Overall, I would say we must recognise that Coronavirus has and will have a large impact on the legal sector. It is best to accept that it could be harder to gain a traineeship but that should not stop you from trying. The best advice is to be flexible, stay determined, prepare more than ever for interviews and be commercially aware. If you are dedicated to a profession in the legal sector the impacts of coronavirus will not stop you. A positive attitude and perseverance are sure to see you succeed in qualifying as a solicitor.
Good luck and stay positive!