• Aleksandra Nowicka

Law student experience with the pandemic: A curse with some blessings

by Ilona Wrzeszcz, a second year LLB student at the University of Greenwich, Campus Ambassador for the Bird&Bird, and Student Brand Ambassador for the Lawyer Portal

The pandemic has impacted the life of every single person. For students the pandemic has had a significant impact.

You separate from your friends on Friday for a weekend hoping to see them the following Monday, but then you receive the news - the rest of your academic year will be taught online. As law students, we have experienced uncertainty amongst other feelings. We did not know what was going to happen with our exams and even now, we still do not know what our next year of education will look like. Many of us have been forced to come back home, whether it was in the UK or abroad.

New academic reality

Most of us have done their exams online or are about to do them online. Most likely your exam was open book or was turned into coursework. For some, it was a blessing, for others a curse. Everyone has a different home environment, therefore doing the exams at home has been very difficult to some. We could also see various inconsistencies amongst universities - whilst some students received only one extra hour on top of the normal time the exam would consume, others 24 hours, a week, or even longer. You were probably faced with the fear of your internet shutting down, your laptop breaking, or your lecturers being extra harsh at marking due to the exams being open book. So on one hand, you had extra time, you could focus on perfecting your work and you were in a hopefully less stressful environment than the chilly sports hall on the campus. On the other hand, you have probably missed your friends, missed the exam adrenaline rush, the feeling of satisfaction, finishing your year at home, and if you were finishing your last year, it probably has been in the worst way which you could have not predicted.

The important thing is that we DID IT or NEARLY have DONE IT! It will be an experience we will never forget. Every single one of us has learnt something from it one way or another.

Will you hire me, please?

Focusing on recruitment and employability, this was also a blessing and a curse. You are probably thinking I cannot be serious. The training contracts and vacation schemes are being postponed, the number of them decreased, the newly qualified pay is suffering a drop in firms even as big as Slaughter and May. The training contract might start at home and finish same way. This has been the reality for people applying to Slater and Gordon who will only operate from home once their lease comes to an end.

BUT, we have to look at the bright side. All the networking events and Insight Days which would allow you to make connections and learn more about the firm had a very limited capacity prior to covid era. Having had attended 12 Insight Days in various, amazing firms, I can say that most of them had between 30-60 spaces available. Similarly, with vacation schemes, the number of participants is under 100 for nearly all the firms, and for most below 50.

In the past 3 months of lockdown, I have attended nearly 30 webinars including Instagram Lives, and conferences with law firms and other legal organizations that often had 100 and up attendees. One that I have attended had over 400 participants. I have also done virtual experiences (like many others), I have just started Legal Cheek Vacation Scheme, and I am waiting for the start of the Internship with Bright Network (just like hundreds of other candidates). All of those could even be done from abroad! Through those, we have received a lot of insights into firms that the majority of us would not have received before the pandemic as there would have been a big limit on the number of participants. A massive perk for all of those is that the application process is rather short and simple or no application at all is required. I think that this created more diversity. More aspiring lawyers could participate, no expenses are made to prepare for those and your background, grades, the experience did not matter.

Do you know the moment you are rejected for something because you have no experience and you say to yourself ‘How am I meant to get experience, if no one is willing to offer me any because I lack it?’. The pandemic has given us an opportunity. We can all now have some sort of experience in our CV, if we just grab the opportunities that are in front of us.

So instead of focusing on how bad the pandemic is, we should keep in mind that we shall make the most of it because it has provided us with a lot of opportunities.

In other words, this pandemic was a curse, but it has provided us with some blessings.

Ilona has recently launched the new newsletter to help us all stay on track with all the events, webinars, and networking opportunities happening in a great number on a daily basis (I frequently use it!). You can subscribe Ilona's Career Knocks Newsletter here.

In case of any questions, you can find Ilona on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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