Since the launch of our COVID-19 Support Hub and opening our £1 million Personal Hardship Fund for those affected by coronavirus, we have seen a broad range of applicants who are in need of support in varying circumstances.
One group of those affected is junior lawyers and our CEO Nick Gallagher recently joined a webinar hosted by Elizabeth Rimmer, Chief Exec at LawCare to highlight the support available to this group. Mollie Ferguson, a newly qualified solicitor and member of the executive committee of the Junior Lawyers Division at The Law Society and Linda Lee, a former president of The Law Society for England and Wales, and Chair of the Solicitors Assistance Scheme also joined the discussion to signpost the help and support available to junior lawyers.
Nick explained the difficulties being faced by junior lawyers where they may have finished a training contract and their next contract has been pushed back. “If their original firm won’t take them back and furlough them, they’ve essentially fallen in a gap with no income. Our Personal Hardship Fund has been designed specifically to help plug the gaps in the Government scheme and ensure we help as many solicitors as possible in their time of need. We’re turning the funds around quickly with 80-85 percent of applicants who applied in the first two weeks having already received payment, may quicker.”
Mollie highlighted the gravity of the impact of lockdown on a lot of junior lawyers: “Many junior lawyers will have never worked from home, this could be due to inflexible employers or other factors. Not only that, many firms haven’t allowed equipment home which all adds to anxiety levels, set ups being different and a general lack of guidance. One of the key points is losing the ability to run quick questions, which don’t warrant an email or call, by colleagues, this has had a huge impact on the support available to junior lawyers. Despite all this, people are having to be resilient and adapt to environmental changes which could make them stronger in the long run.”
The Law Society’s Junior Law Division has not only written an open letter to law firms to talk to junior lawyers and trainees to ensure they are well supported but has also set up a community hub to allow junior lawyers to network across the country. “We have weekly calls and podcasts and it’s really a place to find others in the same position as you.”
Linda Lee shared that the Solicitors Assistance Scheme initially received many calls regarding employment law issues relating to furloughing and redundancies but the key message was talking. “Junior solicitors can have regulatory and disciplinary concerns heard by us and anonymously if they wish. The most important thing is to call us before you get into difficulty and before you make a mistake – there is no shame in reaching out for help.”
Elizabeth Rimmer explained how junior lawyers could be feeling the pressure because they may feel it’s hard to challenge what their firm’s doing at the moment. “You don’t want to be that person if you’re worried about your future, you may feel now is not the time to speak up.” Elizabeth also anticipates more people getting in touch with LawCare when people start to return to the office in different circumstances. “Be kind to yourselves and don’t expect perfection with everything you’re having to deal with. Talk if you’re worried, even if it’s not to an organisation, just get it off your chest with a friend.”
To listen to the webinar in full click here
To visit our COVID-19 Support Hub and apply for the Personal Hardship Fund visit www.sba.org.uk/covid-19