Graduating in law during COVID-19

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?


Why not read our ‘International Women’s Day – Time to demand more’ article on Legal Futures? Click HERE to read the full text.

Starting out in Law during the onset of COVID-19

Milad Shojaei graduated in 2019, looking to build a career as a barrister, and then Coronavirus came along and everything changed. He takes a brief look at how the virus has affected him and the first steps in his legal career.


Like many people, the sweeping changes brought about by COVID-19 impacted me at the beginning of my legal career. Having just started to take instructions as a County Court Advocate for LPC Law in early March, I only had the chance to represent clients at a handful of hearings, before every matter I was instructed on was adjourned. Worse yet, all but one of my pupillage applications had fallen apart with the interviews being scrapped in light of the circumstances. This alongside significant concerns that various law firms could go bankrupt and with alarming statistics that 83% of junior barristers would not survive the pandemic, I was worried that my short-lived career as a legal professional was coming to an end before it even started!


Luckily the legal sector was not completely unprepared. After the emergency release of the Coronavirus Act 2020, it was clear that the Courts in England & Wales had, through no choice of their own, taken on an accelerated transition into the paperless world, by expanding the availability of video and audio-link in court proceedings. Before working remotely myself, I could already observe the cultural shifts in the legal landscape with my LinkedIn feed being loaded with various promotions of legal tech and a cluster of invitations to participate in mock remote jury trials to test the robustness of the new system.


The reality set in when I was first instructed on an Infant Settlement, and the entire procedure was conducted over a telephone conference, in my living room. For most, this was a sign that something was going wrong, for me not so much. As someone who had been advocating the digitisation of the legal sector at CASEDO for nearly a year, I not only had the technological awareness necessary for the change but was also equipped with the right legal case management software to assist my practice.


In essence, I have welcomed this change. What’s more is that my dream chambers decided to continue with the pupillage process via Zoom, technology coming in for the save again! That’s not to say that the impacts of the global crisis aren’t disastrous, but to witness the legal sector at large experience a wake-up call as to the things myself and the team at CASEDO have been driving forward, certainly suggests that more innovation and improved efficiency are on the horizon.


Why not read our ‘Law under lockdown: enduring the challenges of Covid-19’ article on Legal Futures? Click HERE to read the full text.


Feature Image License: CC0 Public Domain, mohamed mahmoud hassan