Anxieties of Being Furloughed as a Result of COVID-19
Shaili Desai, trainee solicitor at Streeter Marshall LLP, tells Women in Family Law about the anxieties of being furloughed as a result of COVID-19. (2nd April 2020)
Having been a family paralegal for nearly two years, I was thrilled, to say the least, when I received the email confirming a noted local firm would love to have me on board as their new trainee. More than that, they would be willing to consider invoking ‘time to count’ for me, thereby reducing my training period to a year and half, rather than the standard two years. Little did I know that the opportunity to commence training in mid-March 2020, and to potentially qualify by next September, would all be disrupted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These unprecedented times have seen a hit to many businesses, and law firms are no exception. The nation has been told to “stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives” and thus law firms are struggling to maintain a regular influx of new client enquiries. The inconveniences of working from home, technical and otherwise, have put a temporary strain on firms’ ability to offer comprehensive training to aspiring solicitors like myself.
It is for these reasons that I have been placed on an interim period of leave, also known as furlough leave, with the hope that I can officially commence my training contact when it is safe and viable to do so. I am more than thankful to my firm who have been nothing but supportive and encouraging through this time by offering a financial package over the government’s promised contribution, regularly keeping in touch with me and reassessing the situation on a weekly basis.
The struggle I am currently facing is how to spend my time productively now that I am not working. I have found a few things which have kept me going that may be useful to others in my position:
- Finding online webinars on the areas of family law that I find the trickiest to wrap my head around. This is especially useful in understanding financial remedy cases which deal with high net worth pension provisions, or multi-faceted business interests or income streams.
- Keeping up to date with case law. Whilst the outbreak of COVID-19 has limited the number of in-person hearings, there are still several being undertaken remotely.
- Keeping an eye out on the government’s and the judiciary’s guidelines on family law issues regarding COVID-19. Almost daily there are new publications or statements released on websites such as The Law Society Gazette, Legal Cheek, Family Law Weekly and other smaller blogs I find now and again from perusing my LinkedIn and Twitter feed. Of particular interest to me is a daily Q&A session run by Laura Naser of Pennington Manches Cooper LLP through her Instagram page “@thefamilylawyer” where she brings on experts in family law to comment on how COVID-19 is affecting the field. For example, how child contact arrangements can be handled in light of the ‘stay at home’ order, a session which featured WiFL’s very own Hannah Markham QC.
- Lastly, I am using this time to work on my personal goals, such as taking up yoga, continuing my passion for dance and revitalising my interest in creative writing.
I am one of many legal professionals who have been placed on furlough leave and it can be a daunting and anxious time for anyone. I am grateful for the support of my firm and family and it is not hard to imagine that someone in my position may not have such a strong support unit. My only advice would be to keep positive and stay focused. Whilst I may qualify later than expected, I am aiming to use this time to my advantage so that I can become a better lawyer upon qualification.