o one can deny these are odd times we are currently living through. No one can predict where they are going or when it is going to end. We are all uncertain and things are changing by the minute. If you are like me, this will be hard to cope with so please don’t think you are alone. So many of us are used to routine so when we have to become accustomed to these changing everyday it can certainly throw you off kilter. This article will hopefully point you in the right direction of what is happening in terms of the legal world and your studies. However by the time this goes out to you all it may have changed all over again, so I will post links of where you can find the latest information. I will try and post information as it comes to me and if anyone has any questions then please do contact either myself of one or the team.
One thing about the legal world, and many of you will have found this out by now, is that the show must go on. You will, if not already, become accustomed to your plans changing at the last minute, especially if you want a career as a Barrister or a Solicitor. You can find yourself on way to one court only to find yourself quickly diverted to another at the last minute, or dinner plans you had with the in-laws suddenly cancelled due to that brief needing writing tonight as a case has just come in.
Solicitors and Barristers
Like many other professions the legal profession has had to adapt. People still need barristers and solicitors. Chambers and firms may be shut but many will still be working from home. However, for an unlucky few they are still on the front line, putting themselves and their families at risk. It has come to light that despite video links being in situ since 2009 many police departments are unaware of how they operate as they have not been used. For this reason for detainees on first appearances these are having to be done face to face. This not only puts the detainee at risk but also the solicitor who has to visit them in the holding cells, the security staff and the magistrates who for the better part should (due to their age) be at home self-isolating. This has highlighted the need for training within the legal system on technology for all new recruits so should the need ever arise, such as now, then they are prepared.
Most cases have now been suspended and only emergency cases are being heard. However, 42% of courts in England and Wales are open to face to face cases. The majority of cases will be heard via video link. The types of cases that will continue to be heard face to face include: Domestic Violence protection orders, terrorism applications, overnight custody cases from police stations and arrest warrants.
For a long time solicitors and barristers have been complaining of the state of the courts in respect of hygiene, with many voicing their concerns over lack of hand wash, water on the floor and wash basins hanging off the wall. During this ordeal many have expressed their worry, and now is the time action is needed. However will it be a little to less a little too late.
BPTC and LPC
For students on either the BPTC or LPC this can be a worrying time - A year of hard work and what finally looks like the end and now it is all up in the air can seem soul destroying. Please don’t let it get to you. You have got this far! It is another testament to your strength and proves you have got what it takes to make it.
The SRA and Bar Council are in the process of making provisions for exams. It is taking time for them to make a final decision as they want the best outcome that impacts training contracts and pupillages the least.
So far the SRA has advised that LPC assessments can be relaxed. For skills assessments and elective’s Uni’s can make arrangements for the assessment to be taken in a unconventional approach. The same can be done for the core subjects. However these will still need to be supervised so as long as the LPC providers can find a way of supervising the assessments remotely, they can then apply to the SRA who will look at each proposal on a case by case basis and make their decision as to whether the proposal will meet the criteria of mainlining ‘security and integrity’ of the LPC qualification. However, all LPC students must be given a grade by the 24th August 2020.
In regards to the BPTC the Bar Council have issued this statement “We recognise that students are concerned about the impact on their training, assessments, qualifying sessions and Call to the Bar. We are keeping in close contact with Bar training providers and the Inns of Court.
In light of government statements about the measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 we have taken the decision that the April sit of the centralised BPTC and BTT examinations - ie the three subject areas of Civil Litigation, Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics that are currently set and marked by the BSB - will not go ahead as planned. This is consistent with the advice about travel and social distancing. The next scheduled opportunity to take the centralised exams will be August 2020 but we will need to keep this under review as the situation develops.
Whilst we are not at present waiving the requirement to pass the BCAT, we recognise that in the current circumstances many students are now unable to take it. We have therefore taken the decision to suspend all registrations for the Test while we endeavour to find a solution that will not prevent students from commencing their Bar training this year as planned. Students should wait for further information here before trying to take or retake the BCAT.”
Vacation Schemes and Mini Pupillages
Vacation schemes and mini pupillages are being postponed – most of them until summer where they will either take place at the same time as summer schemes or the week before or after. There is the chance that these are not suitable for some people or clash with other schemes. However it will be then that you have to decide what firm/chamber you want more.
Deadlines are still applying and applications are still open so please do still keep an eye on these and continue to apply as you normally would.
Students at the Open University
For students of the Open University, studying from home is nothing new so already we are one up on other universities, we have all the systems on the computer already, TMA’s are still all in place, the only difference is going to be the exams.
For anyone who has an exam or an end of year marked assignment, by now you should all have received emails from student support detailing what your new arrangements are. If you have not yet received your email please contact student support by email. All phone lines are now closed and all queries should be directed by email via your student page. Your module website will also update at some stage this week if it has not done already with the details of your end of year arrangements.
Graduation ceremonies have also been cancelled which I know will be a big disappointment to some of you who have been waiting. You will have received an email if you ceremony is one of those cancelled and you will be offered a place at another venue of your choice.
These times are very uncertain as I said at the beginning so please do keep an eye on your student home page for the latest up to date information. The Law society, Solicitor Regulation Authority and the Bar Council are also posting up the latest information in regards to the profession and the virus impact so please do check these on a regular basis.
Above all please keep safe…. According to 999 the most calls coming through are mental health related due to the coronavirus. It is scary times we are going through, especially if you are on your own. Don’t suffer in silence. There are people out there who are ready to listen. For OU students you have access to ‘Big White Wall’ a community to talk to other individuals about anything you like. You can also email me anytime you like and if I can I will call you for a chat or if I can’t at that moment I can point you in the direction of someone that can. We are all in this together and no-one should be left behind or forgotten.
Please keep safe everyone.
Written by: Victoria-Jayne Scholes