Amy Clowrey 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.
It’s been another busy few months for the JLD with our two regular autumn forums aimed at supporting those seeking a training opportunity and those due to qualify shortly or in the early stages of qualification.
Both forums were a huge success with delegates benefiting from a range of presentations all of which should put them in good stead for the future.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our forum speakers for giving up their weekend to support the JLD and our members. Look out for details of our spring forums in early 2020!
In the last few weeks, I’ve also co-chaired a roundtable event in conjunction with the Law Society’s Regulatory Processes Committee and attended a dinner discussion hosted by the president of the Law Society to discuss access and entry into the profession.
On 10 October, I also had the honour of judging the Yorkshire Legal Awards 2019. A huge congratulations to all the winners but particularly to Sadie Simpson, who won the Rising Star of the Year Award, and Annie Beaumont, who won the Trainee of the Year Award.
This event, the annual International Weekend, took place between 26 and 29 September in London.
Delegates enjoyed a busy programme of seminars, legal visits and networking events culminating in a gala dinner at the Law Society.
International Weekend is organised to coincide with the Opening of the Legal Year.
This year, I was fortunate to be invited to the Opening of the Legal Year at Westminster Abbey and the lord chancellor’s reception held in Westminster Hall (along with other related events) on behalf of the JLD.
It was an honour to meet and spend a few moments speaking with Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court.
We’re holding two further events this year:
- a roundtable discussion on social mobility in Manchester on 5 November
- a quiz to mark 100 years of women in law in London on 10 December conjunction with the Young Barristers Committee
We now have further updates regarding the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) and other policy updates.
10 October marked World Mental Health Day 2019. To mark the occasion, the Law Society released updated guidance for best practice in the workplace, which used the results of our resilience and wellbeing survey.
I’d also like to take the opportunity to welcome our new Legal Practice Course (LPC) student members to the JLD.
If you’ve just embarked upon the LPC, find out what the JLD and the Law Society can do for you.
Last but not least, nominations for the JLD executive committee are due to close shortly.
If you’d like to represent junior lawyers from LPC graduates to five years’ qualified (and solicitor apprentices!), find out how to apply below. Applications close at midday on 16 October.
If you have any questions about what it’s like to be on the executive committee, get in touch by emailing the JLD.
You can also read my latest article, originally published in The Lawyer, on my experiences as an executive committee member of the JLD.
As ever, we want to represent your views as our members throughout our term on the committee. Email us your views and concerns so we can speak out on your behalf.
This is my last update as chair of the Junior Lawyers Division. It’s been an honour representing your interests.
On 10 November, I pass the baton to my vice chair, Charlotte Parkinson. I wish you all the best of luck in your careers.
Solicitors Qualifying Exam - what we know so far
In my last update, I informed you that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) undertook testing and piloting of Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) stage one in March. The results of this pilot have now been published.
On 5 September, following release of the SQE pilot results, the Law Society and JLD wrote a joint letter to the SRA outlining the outstanding concerns.
To summarise, our outstanding concerns relate to:
- inadequate equality, diversity and inclusion risk assessments to explore the potential risks and benefits of the SQE to EDI in the profession
- a lack of clarity as to how the qualifying work experience element of the SQE will work and the concern that this element of SQE is intended to be unregulated
- the impact of removing the practical legal skills assessment from SQE part 1 and the reliance on multiple-choice questions to assess functioning legal knowledge
- the impact of the removal of the requirement for a qualifying law degree or a graduate diploma in law
- the lack of transparency surrounding the SQE and the failure by the SRA to publish the raw data from the first pilot
- the Law Society has also called upon the government for loans to be made available for those seeking to sit the SQE and has sought the SRA’s support of this.
The JLD is pleased that the Law Society is considering ways to bridge the funding gap so that aspiring solicitors from all backgrounds have the opportunity to access the profession.
As the introduction of the SQE is less than two years away, to ensure the SQE is a success, it’s essential that information is made available, accessible and transparent to the profession.
It’s crucial that the SRA continue to listen to stakeholders and seek input from those with expertise in legal education and training.
We’re currently reviewing our position with the Law Society.
JLD fights for protection of junior lawyers
In April, the JLD wrote to the SRA seeking further regulatory protections for junior lawyers. In that letter, the JLD called upon the SRA to:
- review its position on both the move to deregulate training contracts and training principals and the removal of the mandatory minimum salary for trainee solicitors
- ensure that safeguards be put in place to protect junior lawyers undertaking the work experience element of the SQE and that the SRA confirmed how it intends to ensure that aspiring solicitors are not exploited during this work experience
- take action against organisations employing junior lawyers and solicitors that permit toxic and unhealthy working environments to subsist
This was a continuance of dialogue between the JLD and the SRA regarding regulatory protection for junior lawyers.
The JLD has received a response to its April letter from Julie Brannan, director of education and training at the SRA.
Their response can be summarised as follows:
- the SRA declined to reconsider its previous decisions, despite the concerns the JLD raised with its request, with regards to the deregulation of training contracts and training principals, and also the removal of the mandatory minimum salary for trainee solicitors
- the SRA cited Principle 8 of the current SRA Handbook and also its new Code of Conduct (due to come into force in November 2019) as adequate means of promoting non-exploitation and helping protect all lawyers from toxic work cultures
- the JLD stressed the importance of future safeguards being considered and implemented in light of the incoming SQE, particularly with regards the qualifying work experience element
- the SRA stated it’s not appropriate for minimum salary requirements to be applied to the qualifying work experience due to the broader range of experiences available under this route
- the SRA also believes that its compilation and publication of data about training providers’ performance in relation to the SQE assessments will create a more transparent and accountable training market
On 24 September, the JLD and the Law Society’s Regulatory Processes Committee hosted a roundtable event on junior lawyers and the future regulatory landscape.
We’re hopeful that the JLD and the Law Society will work together to combat the issues raised with the SRA in April.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to provide informative seminars, podcasts and articles on issues that affect junior lawyers.
This year the JLD, led by Adam Hattersley of the JLD executive committee, has been concentrating on social mobility in the legal profession.
Over the last few months, Adam has written a number of articles on social mobility and undertaken anonymous interviews in order to ascertain the scale of the problem.
Read his latest article for The Lawyer: Breaking the class ceiling
On 8 October, I attended a dinner discussion hosted by the president of the Law Society, Simon Davis, to discuss access and entry into the profession.
The discussion centred on the barriers to accessing the profession and what organisations, such as the Law Society and the JLD, can do to support access to the profession.
On 5 November, the JLD is hosting a roundtable event in Manchester to discuss how the legal profession can combat social mobility.
We’ll keep you posted on the outcome. Thank you to Fieldfisher for hosting us.
Criminal legal aid defence – government review
The JLD is represented on the Criminal Legal Aid Defence Practitioner Advisory Panel which will have input into the government’s review of criminal legal aid.
The JLD created a sub-committee of junior lawyers to feed into this review by asking junior lawyers to apply to sit on this sub-committee.
If you work in criminal defence and undertake legally aided work, we’d like to hear your real-life stories about how cuts to legal aid have impacted upon you, your job and/or your clients.
These real-life stories will be sent onto the Ministry of Justice to assist with the criminal legal aid review. All stories will be treated in confidence and will not be published by the JLD.
You can share your story by emailing us.
The chair of the JLD criminal legal aid review sub-committee, criminal solicitor advocate John Bottomley, recently wrote an article on the criminal legal aid crisis for the Solicitors Journal. Keep an eye out!
Court and tribunal reforms
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has started a pilot on flexible court operating hours in Manchester and Brentford.
The JLD has previously responded to consultations on flexible court operating hours and raised concerns about its impact on junior lawyers.
The JLD will monitor the impact of the pilot on junior lawyers and is providing feedback to the HMCTS through the Law Society.
As part of this, the JLD is keen to speak to junior lawyers in Manchester and Brentford who use the courts and are likely to be affected by the pilot.
If you or any junior lawyers in your region are affected by the pilot and would be willing to provide feedback, email us so that your views can be heard.
Bullying and sexual harassment
In 2018, the International Bar Association (IBA) carried out a worldwide survey of legal professionals to understand the occurrence of bullying and sexual harassment in the industry.
The JLD worked with the IBA to ensure that their bullying and sexual harassment survey had a strong input from the legal profession in England and Wales.
A total of 715 legal professionals from the UK responded to the survey. The findings were published in May 2019.
The report shows the following:
- levels of bullying in the UK are above the international average, with 62% of female respondents and 41% of male respondents (compared to the international average of 55% and 30% respectively) reporting that they had been bullied in the workplace.
- 38% of female respondents and 6% of male respondents in the UK had been subject to sexual harassment in the workplace.
- younger members of the profession (and therefore often more junior) are disproportionately affected by bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace.
These findings are of concern to the JLD.
The government issued a consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace and the JLD has responded to the consultation to highlight issues which affect its members.
If you’ve been affected by bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace, you can contact us.
Regulation - SRA consultations
The JLD will be responding to the latest open SRA consultations and would welcome any feedback and comments from our members.
This consultation outlines proposals to improve how the SRA currently regulates the quality of civil and criminal advocacy. The consultation closes on 12 November.
The consultation is seeking views on the SRA’s new Corporate Strategy which sets out its priorities for the period from 2020 to 2023. The consultation closes on 23 January.
If you have any comments on either consultation, email us.
JLD committee vacancies: closing date 16 October
Could you take up the challenge of representing your peers in a national and international forum? The JLD executive and national committees invite students and junior lawyers to stand for election.
The deadline for submission of nominations is Wednesday 16 October at 12pm.
Supporting wellbeing in the workplace: Guidance for best practice
On World Mental Health Day 2019 (10 October), the Law Society published its updated guidance for employers which covers best practice for safeguarding and promoting the resilience and wellbeing of employees in the workplace.
Using the results of the surveys and reports undertaken by the JLD on resilience and wellbeing amongst junior lawyers, the guidance has now been extended to include lawyers at any stage of their career, as well as business support staff.
It’s relevant to firms of all sizes. Specific recommendations are included for different sizes of firm.
Solicitors, managers, learning and development, diversity and inclusion and HR professionals will find the guidance particularly helpful. The guidance is also transferable across other industry sectors.
The JLD would like to thank former JLD committee member and Law Society Council member, Kayleigh Leonie, for updating this guidance and for her work on resilience and wellbeing as an issue for the profession.
JLD essay competition: What’s in a name? Is the title of solicitor still relevant?’
If you’re a solicitor apprentice, LPC student, LPC graduate or trainee solicitor, consider entering the JLD annual essay competition.
The question this year is: ’ What’s in a name? Is the title of solicitor still relevant?’
The deadline is 30 November and the winner will receive £500.
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 January 2020.
The closing date for applications is Sunday 3 November and interviews will take place the week commencing 11 November (telephone interviews are possible)
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.
Blog: The solicitor apprenticeship
Sahana Grimaldi, a solicitor apprentice at Womble Bond Dickinson, gives an insight into the legal life of the JLD’s latest members.
Podcasts for junior lawyers
Check out the new 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.
News in brief
Webinar: Thriving at work and at home in a 24/7 connected world (24 October)
Join this one-hour webinar to gain practical guidance on how to improve your wellbeing and have a balanced personal and professional life in 24/7 connected digital world.
Time: 12.30pm to 1.30pm
Speaker: Laura Willis, co-founder, Shine Offline
A Christmas quiz celebrating 100 Years of women in law
Date: Tuesday 10 December 2019
Time: 19:00 - 23:30
Location: University Women’s Club, Mayfair, London W1K 1DB
Join the Young Barristers’ Committee of the Bar and the JLD for a Christmas quiz celebrating 100 years of women in law.
Fancy being the next Egghead? Test your colleagues and friends’ quiz skills and take part in what we are sure will be a fun evening for all.
Team sizes are a maximum of seven. Individual bookings welcomed, a great opportunity to make new friends.
Tickets are priced at £35 pp and include your Quiz ticket, ½ bottle of wine and finger food.
JLD annual conference and ball 2020: Save the date (Saturday 25 April 2020)
The 13th Junior Lawyers Division annual conference and ball will be held on Saturday 25 April 2020 at the Law Society in central London.
Offering a mix of keynote speeches, practical breakout sessions and networking opportunities, the JLD annual conference and ball provides invaluable guidance on taking control of your career.
Save the date and register to receive information nearer the time.
- Seminar: Politics and the law (London, 15 October)
- In-house Division seminar: Communicating law to non-lawyers (16 October, Leeds)
- Black History month 2019 (17 October, Birmingham)
- Diwali 2019 (22 October, London)
- Pro Bono Week launch event: pro bono and human rights (4 November, London)
- London Law Fair 2019: Promoting access to a diverse legal profession - Morning session (27 November, London)
- London Law Fair 2019: Promoting access to a diverse legal profession - Afternoon session (27 November, London)
- Graham Turnbull Lecture 2019 (10 December, London)
JLD in the news
Since the last chair’s update in August, the JLD committee has continued to contribute features for The Lawyer and the Law Society Gazette.
These features range from topical issues affecting the profession, with a particular focus on junior lawyers, or career development including spotlights on individual committee member’s areas of practice.
We also continue to be approached by the legal media more generally to comment on news items as they break.
Featuring the JLD
Chair, Junior Lawyers Division
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