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What to expect when entering the workforce as a law grad… during a pandemic!

Now is your chance to develop a deeper understanding of what law firms are going through

David Hollingsworth

If you’re a recent law graduate, congratulations are in order. This is a significant accomplishment, especially during the current chaotic times we all live in. That said, with the pandemic, you might be wondering what life in the workforce is going to be like. You may first notice trends when searching for employment with a firm or hitting the ground running with your first client. Today, let’s highlight a few key things to expect along the way.

Some practice areas booming. Others? Not so much

As many individuals are losing jobs, some of them due to employers possibly violating agreements to cut costs, employment law has recently been a very popular practice area. There are more claims and cases than ever, and legal teams are often swamped with clients seeking guidance or assistance with documents. On the flip side, other areas of practice may be less active due to the current economic and lockdown conditions in specific areas. Depending on where you’re looking for work, the current operating status of the firm in question and other factors, they may be focusing on key specializations, which can be a win for applicants who match their required credentials.

Firms aren’t exempt from economic stresses

Of course, those firms that are dealing with tough times are less likely to hire — in fact, they may be struggling to retain their current team without downsizing to stay out of the red. These are hard times for everyone, and each business is coping in their own unique way. This is especially true for practices with a niche specialization that isn’t as relevant in current conditions. In that sense, when in the workforce and holding a position, be sure to deliver your best every day –— the team actively needs you, and so do their clients!

More applicants than ever, but don’t give up!

Around the world, there has been a massive increase in the number of individuals out of work, some of whom have gone back to school to obtain more relevant credentials. This can mean, for some positions, that there are more law grads vying for employment. The more job hunters there are, the more difficult it may be to get your foot in the door, but don’t give up! Apply yourself — literally and figuratively — demonstrate your skillset, be prepared for every chance at an interview, and demonstrate what you are capable of.

Be organized and prepared for working remotely

It’s very likely that, when employed at a legal firm, that your team will need to work remotely during the pandemic. While most firms can provide basic equipment, do yourself a favour and invest in an appropriate at-home setup if possible. This doesn’t mean running out and spending $1500 on a Herman Miller chair, of course — there are plenty of cost-effective alternatives, and there’s no need to pick up anything but the essentials. The primary resources you’ll need for remote commuting are a quiet, professional-looking indoor space for video and phone calls, a dependable laptop with proper security measures in place to protect data (it may even be connected to a firm’s virtual desktop to achieve this), a high-quality microphone and headset, and supplementary equipment for note taking, managing and storing documents, and otherwise.

Clients have more on their plates than ever

Regardless of your area of practice, your clients are likely not spared from the hardships of modern life amidst a crippling pandemic. In fact, they likely are more stressed and overwhelmed than ever, and you’ll need to be prepared to help them through the troubles you are familiar with in your chosen law path. Whether communicating virtually or in person with social distancing strictly enforced, wearing a mask or a microphone, it’s important that you can approach each interaction with care, consideration, and professional courtesy. Your firm likely has a reputation for a specific level of service; regardless of the current situation outside, that focus remains the same within your organization’s walls, so don’t be afraid to connect with clients at a more personable level and develop a deeper understanding of their situation. It may even end up that the pandemic is negatively impacting their circumstances or case, so you may be able to help them navigate these difficulties.

Short-term relief

There’s a chance, due to these trying times, that your firm may struggle to give everyone the hours they normally would receive. It happens, and while it’s important to not take it personally, but you should also investigate short-term relief options available in your area. Some, such as Canada’s CERB coverage and the stimulus payouts in the United States, take your employment status into account and compensate accordingly. Others, including tax grants such as those for working at home, can afford extra payments. I recommend researching in advance to see what your options are, just in case a bump in the road comes your way.

If you’re entering the workforce as a law grad during this pandemic, know that you’re not the only one. By preparing in advance for any eventualities, adjustments to working standards, processes and otherwise, you can more readily adapt to circumstances as they change. In addition, now is your chance to develop a deeper understanding of what legal firms and their clients are going through. Best of luck to you in your new adventure, and don’t stop working at making your passion happen.

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