Gizem Akilli is graduating this year. Heading into the penultimate semester of her hard-fought law degree, the pandemic struck. She takes a brief look at how the virus has affected her studies and the first steps in her legal career.


Coming into the final year of my law degree, I was eager to graduate and swiftly move onto the Legal Practice Course at BPP. I had taken on a multitude of extracurricular responsibilities to ready myself for the challenges that I could face as a solicitor. I dedicated countless hours as a volunteer Initial Assessor at Toynbee Hall and worked with the CASEDO team on exciting projects that advance legal tech and the paperless agenda.


When COVID-19 emerged, and the global crisis ensued, I was concerned with what this could mean for my degree and career. I witnessed the unprecedented impacts of the crisis on Pro-bono services first hand. Despite all efforts, the law clinic was unable to give face-to-face assistance to clients in light of the new regulations and my volunteering placement came to an end. All my remaining assessments had been reshaped to a digital alternative, vital seminars and lectures were hosted by Zoom & GotoWebinar, and my graduation had been cancelled entirely. Given the research-heavy nature of the assessments and the fact that no university had ever transitioned in such a drastic fashion, I was increasingly anxious about the impacts this would have on students like myself.


I quickly realised that for most, who would spend days and nights at the law library working together, that operating remotely was a very dire change. However, as someone who had the opportunity to rely on legal case management software at the Casedo Paperless Moot, I was pretty confident in my ability to manage a digital workflow during lockdown to good effect. With signs that the pandemic had impacted universities across the UK, and with the likelihood of deferral amongst UK-domiciled students being approximately 17% higher, I could see quite clearly that City, University of London’s effective transition was a positive move for the future of the institution. I was also pleasantly surprised that since the start of April, Toynbee Hall had been able to also transition effectively. The law clinic has been able to assist nearly 500 people over the phone and online, but this is clearly not enough, and the clinic would certainly have benefited from having pre-existing digital support in place.


As an international student, my first instinct was that the already tricky prospects of becoming a legal professional had become that much harder. Like many, I was disappointed with the news that vacation schemes and work experience programmes were cancelled in light of the circumstances. With such confidence-curtailing news, it has not been a good time to ‘aspire’ to a career in law. Having said that, I understood the importance of grasping the implications of COVID-19 for the commercial world and readying myself despite the challenges that lie ahead. I have had the opportunity to upskill, applying the technological and commercial awareness I have developed at CASEDO to an array of virtual networking events and work experiences. Through completing virtual internships at Linklaters, Pinset Masons, Baker Mckenzie and White & Chase, I have realised that students need not worry, as the opportunities to impress have not collapsed, they’ve just transformed.


Despite the adversities brought about by COVID-19, I have made efforts to avoid losing sight of my ambition. By demonstrating higher productivity and efficiency, I have become more energetic throughout the crisis. This will undoubtedly bode well for me when my dream law firm asks How did you respond to the COVID-19 crisis?


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