The impact of COVID-19 has meant that law firms have been affected with a decrease of workload and court sessions have paused. The judicial system has been struggling with cases where cases are on hold, and some have been heard remotely. Courts have been using more technology with electronic software, online sessions and remote hearings, and law firms have adapted also. The rise of technology has its advantages, offering efficient and quick service, faster responses and a greener world with less paper as more work shifts online. However, this has been a challenge too, particularly where poor internet connection has disrupted remote hearings and online work, and difficulties where those are unfamiliar with advanced technology causing major complications to law firms, courts and clients.
The difficulties meant law firms had to put work on hold which meant staff were furloughed or lost their jobs, such as those affected being paralegals, client administrators, receptionists, and trainees who were worried they would be unable to finish their training contracts. Working from home became the new norm for law firms where video conferences became popular and flexible working. Platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Teams allow colleagues to interact professionally by sharing and pitching ideas to each other which is now considered the new normal.
Despite the current pandemic, law firms have been announcing their retention rates with most firms keeping their trainees and offering them new positions within the firm. Firstly, White & Case have kept 88% of their trainees, as the firm announced 21 trainees were given positions out of 24 and were given fixed-term contracts which were all accepted. This figure is similar to last autumn retention rate, where White & Case announced that 89% of trainees were kept, which was 16 out of 18, showing that COVID-19 had little impact on the retention rates.
Moreover, Baker McKenzie announced they have offered 14 trainees new positions, out of 17. The international firm is always willing to grow and remains committed to attracting the best talent for the firm to expand.
Furthermore, magic circle firms such as Slaughter and May have kept a high amount on, with a 93% retention rate, where 38 offers were made out of 41 which all offers were accepted. The firm is very proud, and this statistic shows the firm will continue to grow in the future. Allen & Overy also have a 93% rate with 38 trainees offered positions at the firm and all accepted, out of 41. The autumn number has increased from last year by 4% with last autumn being 89% trainees kept. And Clifford Chance retaining 36 out of 46 trainees. The numbers show a high rate of retention which gives hope for aspiring solicitors that law firms are still retaining and recruiting, by offering training contracts with the likelihood of achieving a newly qualified position within the firm at the end.
Law firms have been in an uncertain time with lots of worry and doubt. Nevertheless, they are determined to keep growing by retaining the best talent for their firm and new employees. This shows a positive attitude to the legal industry and a shift towards greater things in the future, despite the challenges that COVID-19 has shown, as firms are still wanting to recruit for the future and continue to find talent that will make their firm grow. The only difficulty is that training contracts may be postponed, and the recruitment processes may change, such as the firms who recruit through vacation schemes now partaking in ‘virtual recruitment’ until it is safe to do so face to face – but the positive takeout is that firms are still recruiting.
~ Zahra Javed, The Student Lawyer