Charlotte Parkinson, chair of the Junior Lawyers Division, updates members on recent JLD activities and other news likely to be of interest to junior lawyers.
Welcome to the latest JLD chair’s update.
While we find ourselves still in lockdown, the JLD has been continuing to work remotely on its policies and aims for the year. We have continued with our 'Booze Culture' campaign throughout April, written to the SRA on yet another unsettling ethics decision involving a junior lawyer and continued working with the SRA in relation to their development of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. We now finally have the final SQE design from the SRA and we have set out all our concerns in a long letter to the SRA.
Policies aside, we hope that we are offering relevant guidance at this unprecedented time for all our members and, as always, our social media channels are the best and quickest way to ensure you stay on top of JLD news and also find details of events which may be of help. More and more we are seeing webinars being made freely available to help you adapt to this new way of working, whether that be tips on motivation, time management or anxiety. Speaking of free events, we also hope to see as many of you as possible at our free, virtual conference on 20 June 2020 – more on that below!
Please let us know if there is more you would like to see from the JLD on any of its policies, including any COVID-19 related questions, by getting in touch.
Thank you to those of you who have entered our 2020 essay competition. The deadline has now passed and we are in the process of judging the entries. Results will be out soon!
As well as our virtual conference, we are organising a virtual raffle to raise money for our charity of the year, MQ: Mental Health. There's some great prizes up for grabs and it's for such an amazing cause. Find out more and purchase your virtual raffle tickets now.
Finally, we have a new look website. We invite you to head over and check it out – please provide us with any and all feedback as we will pass this on to the web team to ensure the website is as good as it can be for junior lawyers.
Coronavirus: Advice and updates
Whilst we continue to endure lockdown and adapt to new ways of working, we would encourage junior lawyers who are experiencing changes to their employment situation to read our COVID-19 advice and guidance. This also includes updated guidance on what to do if your training contract is terminated.
The SRA also continues to update its FAQs for junior lawyers facing career uncertainty.
Added to this the Law Society is offering support for your career during the coronavirus pandemic. Has the coronavirus pandemic left your career ailing? Are you now looking for a job or considering opportunities? If you're looking for a new job in these difficult times, you can:
- view the latest vacancies at Gazette Jobs, where you can sign up for job alerts and upload your CV
- read the comprehensive career development advice
- visit the Professional Development Centre for e-learning resources
- more training and development to support you through this period is coming very soon
Policy and campaigns update
Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)
As we inch ever closer to the date on which the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) intends to make its final application for approval of the SQE design to the Legal Services Board (LSB), we've continued to engage with key stakeholders surrounding our outstanding concerns.
We ultimately support the development of a new, centralised assessment in the route to qualification as a solicitor.
However, we still think there are further steps for the SRA to take in relation to:
- equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) – one of the SRA's aims in developing the SQE is to remove barriers relating to access to the profession and ensure a more diverse profession. We consider that more still needs to be done in relation to the SQE design to ensure this aim is achieved
- quality – we still have concerns about the quality of the SQE, particularly in relation to testing legal knowledge solely through multiple choice questions and skills testing in SQE part 1 and 2. We've been engaging with representatives of the profession to further understand their concerns and implementation options for the introduction of the SQE
- the SQE2 pilot – the SRA has now released its report on the second pilot and we're considering this further. We expect to contribute to further discussions this month on the assessment specification for SQE2
We also took part in a virtual roundtable organised by the LSB with key individuals from the Justice Select Committee, the SRA and the Law Society. This was a fantastic opportunity to have our concerns heard and to understand the concerns and questions other individuals have.
There's still plenty more to do before the SRA's final application. As always, get in touch with your views or any questions you have on the SQE.
Protection for junior lawyers: Decisions of the SDT
In May we wrote to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) yet again raising concerns about the treatment of junior lawyers appearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT). In particular, we noted that junior lawyers are not being adequately protected by the SRA’s approach to enforcement, in that toxic working environments and mental ill-health factors seem to be ignored in favour of pursuing junior lawyers.
Booze culture campaign
As part of our continued work in the mental health and wellbeing space and following publication in January of guidance on adopting a healthy drinking culture, we have now published a series of good practice case studies. The case studies celebrate the good work of the legal profession in relation to fostering a healthy drinking culture. Find out more.
The JLD does, and will, continue to respond to consultations which have relevance for junior lawyers and would welcome any feedback and comments from our members.
Criminal Legal Aid Review: An accelerated package of measures amending the criminal legal aid fee schemes
At the beginning of 2019, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) began a comprehensive review of criminal legal aid fee schemes. In light of some pressing concerns identified early in the review, the MoJ took the decision to fast-track certain areas of the review:
- how litigators and advocates are paid for work on unused material
- how advocates are paid for work on paper heavy cases
- how advocates are paid for cracked trials in the Crown Court
- how litigators are paid for work on sending cases to the Crown Court
The consultation closing date has been extended due to current circumstances and the JLD will be providing a response on behalf of our members. See further information about the consultation. If you wish to input into the JLD response, please email us.
We want to hear from you: the JLD requires evidence from junior lawyers working in criminal legal aid about the sustainability crises. We have to provide the MoJ with such evidence in order for it to recommend to government that more funding is desperately needed. We are looking for stories about how the lack of funding is affecting you, your clients or your firm and also any duty solicitor schemes on the brink of extinction. If you are able to share your story with us, whether that be anonymously or not, please email us.
Legal Services Board – ongoing competence: call for evidence
The Legal Services Board (LSB) has launched a call for evidence on how legal regulators ensure the professionals they regulate remain competent throughout their careers to protect the public and promote consumer interests. The LSB is asking respondents to consider four themes:
- defining competence and competence assurance
- consumer expectations of competence
- competence assurance in the legal services sector
- competence assurance in other sectors
SRA - Changes to the Principles for Qualified Lawyers
Earlier in the year the SRA consulted on proposals to make minor changes to the principles for two types of lawyers seeking admission in England and Wales after the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is introduced:
- those who have qualified in a jurisdiction outside England and Wales
- any lawyer regulated by another approved legal services regulator in England and Wales ('qualified lawyers')
Junior Lawyer of the Year Excellence Award – nominations extended
We know this is a difficult time for the legal profession and the Law Society is committed to recognising your incredible hard work, expertise and inspiring achievements at its annual Law Society Excellence Awards. The awards are still open for entries, including the Junior Lawyer of the Year award, and want to hear from you. Closing date for entries has now been extended to 26 June 2020.
JLD charity raffle 2020
The JLD is hosting a virtual raffle for its chosen charity of the year - MQ: Transforming mental health. We welcome your support. The draw will be held on 21 June 2020 - find out more.
Supervision – revised practice note
The Law Society has updated its supervision practice note. This is aimed primarily at solicitors who are responsible for the supervision of another individual in legal practice or employment, but it is also of relevance to any supervised solicitor or trainee who would like to know what they should expect from their supervisor. The guidance includes additional information on COVID-19 and trainees.
Secondment opportunity in Brussels for junior lawyers
The Law Society office in Brussels is offering a trainee solicitor, newly qualified solicitor or paralegal a unique opportunity to undertake a three- to six-month secondment in the Brussels Office commencing in September 2020. The closing date for applications is Sunday 28 June 2020 and interviews will take place the week of 6 July 2020 by phone or video conference.
Law Society Council elections – nominations now open
Are you interested in representing your fellow solicitors on the Law Society Council? If so, consider standing for one of the geographical Council seats in the forthcoming Law Society Council elections. You are eligible to stand if you are a solicitor working in the relevant area or a member of a local law society there.
As the Law Society’s governing body, the Council agrees the strategic direction of the Law Society’s work, including the annual business plan and budget as well as changes to the Law Society policy and rules. As a Council Member, you are also able (and encouraged) to get involved with the work of the Society’s many special interest boards and committees.
The current vacancies relate to a number of geographical seats. The JLD would strongly encourage junior lawyers to apply for them. Of the 61 geographical seats, four are currently occupied by junior lawyers.
The vacancies are in the following constituencies:
- the City of London
- North East London
- West London
- City of Westminster
- Inner Sussex
- West Country & Gwent
- Mid and West Wales
- Coventry and Warwickshire (Casual vacancy until 2021)
- Wolverhampton and Staffordshire
- Merseyside and District
- Manchester, Salford, Stockport and District
- Cumbria and Lancaster
The deadline for all nominations is 12pm on Friday 17 July 2020.
News in brief
JLD annual conference – Saturday 20 June 2020 (Virtual)
The Junior Lawyers Division virtual annual conference is now fully booked but we're operating a waiting list, so please register if you're interested. In the meantime, check out the programme and email us if you have any questions you wish to ask the speakers relating to any of the sessions – whether or not you're able to attend.
- discover ways to develop and diversify your career
- gain insights into how the profession is changing and adapting for the future
- identify techniques and strategies and learn new skills which benefit you and your employer/future employer
- feel in control of your wellbeing
- network virtually with other junior lawyers and share experiences
Learning and development
The real questions: helping you to secure a training position
If you are looking for a training position check out our latest Q&A:
Adam Hattersley of the JLD executive committee has also written a blog regarding his search for training contracts during the last economic downturn.
You may also wish to visit our dedicated SQE page to learn more about this new route to qualification.
Free career clinics
MyCareerCompanion: your free online learning zone
This free online learning zone, developed for you by the Law Society, has been designed to help you navigate your career path.
Whether you’re thinking of changing roles or looking for that next step, the online resource can help you develop your skills and overcome the obstacles you may face in your career.
Webinars and podcasts
Check out the series of podcasts aimed at junior lawyers. Topics range from an overview of the SQE and calling time on the booze culture, to whether your firm is attractive to trainees and how lawyers and colleagues can maximise performance and protect their wellbeing in a 24/7 constantly connected world.
JLD in conversation
The JLD podcast series includes interviews with:
- Eloise Skinner, author of the Junior Lawyers’ Handbook
- Joanne Kane, chair of the Young Barristers committee
- James Kitching, a Law Society Council member representing solicitors up to five years qualified
- Sinead McGrath and Callum Reed, of the JLD committee
Preparing 2nd year trainees for qualification
JLD in the news
Since the last chair’s update in December the JLD committee has continued to contribute regular features for The Lawyer, the Law Society Gazette and the Solicitors Journal as well as ad hoc articles for other publications.
These features range from topical issues affecting the profession, with a particular focus on junior lawyers, or career development.
We also continue to be approached by the legal media more generally to comment on news items as they break.
Here are a selection of recent articles written by members of the Junior Lawyers Division:
- Junior lawyers must do our bit to guard our profession against unethical behaviour
- The career impact of coronavirus: history doesn’t repeat but it often rhymes
- Covid-19 and qualification: What does delaying qualification mean for NQ solicitors?
- This too will pass: Dealing with stress
- Remote possibilities
- Will the LSB close the stable door before the SQE horse bolts?
- Applying for training contracts at a time of uncertainty
Here are a selection of articles featuring the Junior Lawyers Division:
- Junior lawyers tell SRA to delay solicitor super-exam
- EXCLUSIVE: Junior lawyers blast SRA for approving super-exam
- JLD calls for super-exam delay after “troubling” pilot results
- News focus: Legal learning moves online
- SRA defends Claire Matthews prosecution: ‘she lied’
- SRA defends decision to prosecute junior lawyer who lost work briefcase
- SRA defends Claire Matthews prosecution
- Lawyers stump up £10k to back banned junior’s appeal
- Junior lawyers 'extremely concerned' with SRA treatment of briefcase lie lawyer
- Junior lawyers ‘lose confidence’ in SRA after Matthews prosecution
- JLD: Think again before prosecuting vulnerable lawyers
- Lawyers in lockdown: Stories from the frontline
- Lawyers in lockdown: Stories from the frontline
- Kennedy’s to launch new route to qualification
- Junior Lawyers Division: Healthier networking
- Past in the present
- Time for SRA to adopt “can-do” attitude
- Self starters
- Why a shift towards booze free law events is a positive for the profession
- Coronavirus Q&A: Junior lawyers and mental health
Members of the JLD can take advantage of offers from T.M. Lewin and The Lawyer Portal by visiting the Law Society's membership offers page.
The JLD is all about its members and their needs. To enable the JLD committee to better represent you, we want to hear from you.
Keep up to date with JLD news by visiting our website and subscribing to the JLD newsletter.
Get in touch at email@example.com or through our social media channels to give us your thoughts, seek our support, or just to connect.