Thinking of becoming a lawyer? Here’s how the pandemic might change your job
Covid-19 has been and will continue to be more than a healthcare crisis. Even as a vaccine is being rolled out, the pandemic keeps causing a ripple effect across industries, and experts estimate that its impact will influence us for years to come. Covid-19 has changed the way we work and has triggered massive changes that would have taken decades to occur naturally otherwise. Although law and healthcare may not seem directly related, the truth is that Covid-19 had a considerable impact on legal services – and not just because of the backlog in the crown courts. In the past year, there will be a major increase in some areas of law, and future lawyers may discover that they need new skills for a fulfilling legal career. At the same time, resilience and adaptability will be vital. For someone thinking of becoming a lawyer, or those who already close to graduation, here are a few changes in the profession:
Some areas of law will be busier than ever.
The past year has thrown unprecedented challenges at us. It has changed the way we live and work, and that’s bound to have an impact on the kind of legal services that people need. While the law, in general, is considered to be a safe field and employment opportunities will not be drastically affected by the pandemic, some areas will be more in demand than others.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that employment lawyers will have a busy time in the following couple of years, considering that one of the biggest shifts caused by the pandemic was in the way we work. From an occasional benefit, remote work has become part of the new normal and companies who cannot or will not offer this option to employees will be placed under legal scrutiny. The number of workplace disputes regarding remote work options is expected to grow and we might even see a change in the employer’s duty of care, as workers start seeking compensation for back injuries suffered while working from home. According to the experts from How Much Compensation, personal injury is one of the fastest growing areas of law and in the following months we might see an increase in the number of remote workers demanding compensation.
Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation and law practices have had to step up too. As a new lawyer, tech skills will be a must (but more on that later), and we will also see a rise in cases related to digital services. For example, companies who went digital must now worry about cybersecurity and respecting user privacy or else they risk being sued. As users become more aware of their rights, we could also see a rise in data protection claims.
And speaking of businesses, they’re going through some challenging times too, which will be reflected in the number of corporate disputes. The chaos caused by the coronavirus crisis has led to cancellations and delays. Supplier-provider relationships have been affected, many businesses have become unable to meet their financial duties because of lack of funds, and the decisions taken under pressure by company directors could be brought into question. These are unprecedented circumstances that may push companies into taking controversial decisions that may seem like life-savers now, but that will have major legal consequences later, so that will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the workload of corporate lawyers.
Family law, especially divorce
The pandemic has made more people work from home and spend more time with their families, which, in essence, can be a good thing. However, not many couples have seen this extra time together as a blessing. According to recent data, some UK law firms have even reported a 120% increase in the number of divorce cases, and the trend is consistent all over the world. When work and family collide, that can lead to conflict and, set against the anxiety, irritability and uncertainty of the pandemic, conflict often leads to divorce. It’s not uncommon for divorce applications to spike after the holidays when families spend more time together, but this time, the trend is taking ampler proportions because the UK has seen lockdown after lockdown.
A new breed of “techy” lawyers
As previously mentioned, all fields have had to embrace digital transformation, including law. Tech skills might not have been on a lawyer’s job description a few years ago, but now it’s necessary to prove that an applicant is familiar with computers and can work with dedicated hardware and software. Technological competence goes much further than being able to fill in a spreadsheet and work with Word documents. It also means using collaborative tools, law firm CRM tools, task management software and docketing. Moreover, lawyers will have to maintain digital interactions with clients, so some social media experience could be useful as well. It should be kept in mind that social distancing restrictions will not be lifted anytime soon, so it might be necessary to do networking and keep in touch with clients the non-conventional way.
Joining the bar amidst a paradigm shift
If all of these changes sound stressful, try to see things from a different perspective: this is the most exciting, if not the best time to start a career in law because the current generation of students will change the face of the legal industry. The students who will join the bar in the following years will not face the same disruption as those who already work as lawyers. They might have different expectations, but they’ll join the field as it’s being transformed, so they will adapt much faster. In comparison, those who have been practising for decades will have a harder time letting go of legacy systems and embracing digital transformation. Remote working will become the norm, so lawyers might find the job to be more flexible. Moreover, the lawyer-client relationship dynamic will change and more emphasis will be placed on emotional intelligence. As a downside, studying for law exams will be harder during the pandemic and it will be necessary to demonstrate commitment and resilience, but all these efforts will be worth it.
The editorial unit