by Sweta Lakhani & Abhiraj Agarwal
The Covid-19 crises has been witnessed by the world around and India is one of the countries with the huge population has suffered personal as well economic loses throughout this year. Due to constant lockdowns and limited hours of curfew, many young lawyers have faced a lot of challenges. It has transitioned from seeing colleagues, clients, and judges in offices and courtrooms to a virtual “Zoom” reality where they may gaze into one other’s dining rooms and be charmed by each other’s pets. Courtroom proceedings were also recorded or put on hold, causing delays in the administration of justice. Law schools and bar exams have been turned upside down. People had to learn new technologies and abilities deal with the added stress of earning during these tough times. With this, we have discussed some of the noted impacts:
Virtual Workplace and New Technologies-
Lawyers all throughout the world have been compelled to work in lockdown, but the epidemic has posed significant challenges for junior lawyers, ranging from delays in qualifying to restricted living quarters. Those just starting out in their careers have had the most difficulty working from home. They require more assistance, including formal and informal training, and they may share a flat or have small children. “The main distinction is between individuals who have workspace and those who live in shared accommodation,” explains Herbert Smith Freehills partner Mike Flockhart. “The longer we are compelled to work from home, the more tough it becomes,” he argues. “We absolutely have people working at the same kitchen table as their flatmates, and they have to agree on who gets to conference call in the bedroom.”
Less Business & Lesser Pay-
Firms are implementing a variety of crisis management strategies for both support employees and fee-earners. According to an April study of more than 200 UK law companies by accountancy company Saffery Champness and Management, 77% had informed employees that they would be furloughed. More than half of those surveyed said they planned to furlough no more than 40% of their overall staff, while 7% said they planned to put more than 80% of their employees on the plan. Although the majority of the organisations polled had lowered or were considering reducing partner withdrawals, 22% had no intentions to reduce pay-outs for their most senior employees.
Hiring Freeze & Unemployment-
The general notion is that after Five years of tests, a few lakhs in debt, and endless hours of studying in a silent law library, a law graduate can expect a job. But COVID-19 took away law grads’ employment security practically suddenly in 2020. Many recent graduates were fired after only two months on the job. According to the recent data, many job offers were deferred for the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021. The perception is that once you work for one of the major companies, your employment will be secure. However, this is no longer the case. Law companies have been hurriedly lowering costs in an attempt to survive the pandemic’s impact and have halted recruitment for all but the most critical roles, putting a strain on more junior lawyers eager to advance.
Strain On Mental Health-
As a consequence of the pandemic, lawyers’ mental health is suffering, with research revealing that partners and associates are anxious and isolated. Covid-19 has prompted international lockdowns and forced the legal business to adapt to new technologies such as Zoom and Google Hangouts, which have becoming increasingly common.
Although the use of these tools has made much of the lawyers’ workflow more smoothly, many have reported a negative impact on their mental health, which they attribute to a lack of face-to-face engagement with colleagues and others. Since March 10, calls about the impacts of the coronavirus accounted for half of LawCare’s helpline traffic, according to the organisation. Lawyers expressed loneliness as well as concern about their health and job stability.
RSG Consulting, the Financial Time’s Innovative Lawyers research partner, discovered isolation and lack of interaction to be one of the main challenges of remote working in a global survey of 108 lawyers and law firm staff at all levels of seniority. Women were twice as likely as men to report being affected by this.
Most solicitors, especially more junior lawyers, are accustomed to working as part of a team, often under high-pressure and close-knit circumstances that are difficult to reproduce in a virtual environment.
Work Life Imbalance Faced by Female Lawyers –
Despite the fact that circumstances vary significantly, pictures from throughout the country show women lawyers dealing with a wide range of difficulties associated to the coronavirus pandemic, including stress, income loss, increased caring obligations, isolation, and never-ending hours. Women have faced unprecedented problems since March, when the World Health Organization declared a pandemic and business as usual abruptly shifted, although some just show underlying flaws in work relations, such as gender stereotypes and inadequate acknowledgment of parenting requirements.
Even female lawyers with sympathetic bosses and supportive partners are feeling the strain. “The ability to get work done has moved dramatically for anyone who is raising children,” says Beth Wilensky, a clinical professor at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor.
Rachel Thomas, co-founder and CEO of Lean In, a Palo Alto, California–based non-profit focused on women’s job advancement, says, “If we had a panic button, we’d be hitting it right now.” Women in the Workplace 2020 was launched in September by the group in collaboration with McKinsey & Company. COVID-19, according to the report, has hampered women’s progression in the workplace and may be “unwinding years of careful effort toward gender diversity.” While the study does not focus on lawyers particularly, it does examine the reactions of 40,000 people in 20 other sectors, ranging from finance to engineering. Anxiety regarding layoffs, exhaustion, mental health, childcare and remote schooling, loved ones’ health, and financial uncertainty are among the most significant COVID-19 challenges for women. Mothers, Black women, and senior-level women all faced unique challenges.
Despite the obstacles, women lawyers appear to be keen to keep their careers on track, despite the fact that many have had to make quick adjustments. Maria Schindler had just started her career as a director in PayPal’s legal department in San Francisco and had just given birth to her first child when she was offered remote work. She devotes more time to cultivating relationships that she might have easily built in person, scheduling virtual meetings and one-on-one sessions with others.
The effects of the Covid-19 epidemic will be felt all around the world and in people’s daily lives. Everything has altered, and this shift in perspective will have long-term implications for the profession, even after the pandemic has passed.
Sweta Lakhani is currently working as Lecturer at Jindal Global Law School (JGLS) and Research Fellow at Jindal Institute of Behavioral Science for Research (JIBS) at O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana.
Abhiraj Agarwal is a second-year law student, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana.