COVID & Law Update: BSB Stands Firm, Postponed Vac Schemes & More
Read this week’s roundup on how the legal industry is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bar Standards Board Will Not Change its Mind on Exams Postponement
The BSB made the decision to stay firm about the postponement of the exams (now taking place in August) due to ongoing concerns about finding a viable and “secure alternative” to in-person assessments.
A representative for the BSB stated that the board “must be able to reassure stakeholders that learning outcomes have been assessed and standards have been maintained.”
Earlier this month students on the BPTC warned that postponing exams would lead to students sitting exams during pupillage which would lead to an “unreasonable” and “excessive” burden on pupils.
It comes after the Solicitor Regulation Authority allowed the Legal Practice Course exams to take place online. However, the BSB argues that it cannot be compared to the SRA as “the SRA does not set and mark the LPC exams as we do with the centralised examinations.”
Surge in Demand for Wills
The coronavirus has contributed to a surge in demand for wills over the past two weeks. Financial consultancy deVere group undertook a study showing that demand has jumped by over 70% in the past fortnight as the pandemic focuses people’s minds on their personal legacy plans.
In response to this, solicitors have called for urgent changes around the signing and witnessing of wills in the face of growing demand. Suggestions have been put forward to allow for electronic signatures or alternative signing and witnessing requirements.
New Guidance For Aid Conveyancers Addressing Worries of Transactions Completions
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has already said that completions must be delayed until lockdown ends. However, additional guidance has been drafted by The Law Society amongst other representative and trade bodies to help conveyancers comply with the latest requirements.
The guidance covers how to amend existing contracts and provides advice for those exchanging contracts and those who have to move during the lockdown.
More Than Half of Court and Tribunal Buildings to Close
A priority network of 158 buildings will remain open for essential face-to-face hearings. This represents 43% of the 371 Crown, magistrates’ and family courts across England and Wales.
The Ministry of Justice has highlighted that whilst temporary, the changes will “help maintain a core justice system focused on most essential cases.”
Update: Postponed Spring Law Firm Recruitment Schemes and Workshops
Added to the list of firms that have cancelled their vacation schemes are the following:
Weil Gotshal & Manges
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom (UK) LLP
Shoosmiths is the first firm to postpone its summer vacation placement in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Reading and Solent. Shoosmiths have said that those who have applied in this round will still be considered for training contracts, but hey expect “some changes or postponement” to the normal assessment process. Earlier this month, the firm cancelled all upcoming events including open days, insight evenings and university events.
Nottingham Trent University Waives Law Student Accommodation Fees
The university has decided to waive accommodation fees for those who have left the city during the coronavirus lockdown.
Vice Chancellor of NTI, Professor Edward Peck confirmed that all students that have left their term-time residence and will not be returning to their rooms in term three due to the lockdown will not be charged rent. This only applies to those staying in accommodation provided by NTU or its partner University Partnerships Programme. This applies to any GDL or LPC student in this situation.
NTU previously suspended all face-to-face teaching on campus. It has since arranged for online learning and will advise on arrangements for summer assessments in due course.