Approaching Second Six Amidst A Global Pandemic

Chloe Lee, pupil barrister at Spire Barristers, describes her experience of approaching second six whilst in the midst of a global pandemic.

In the past week we have all seen a huge change in the way that the family justice system is operating due to the COVID-19 crisis. The family justice system is now, in large, operating remotely and live court-based hearings are confined only to exceptional circumstances.

In the final days of my first-six I have attended hearings remotely via telephone and Skype. This is a completely new way of working for many, myself included. For the most part, these hearings have worked well and ran smoothly, but I have seen some teething problems. The situation is changing rapidly, and it is hard for everyone to keep up. It will take some time for us all to adapt to this new working environment.

Going into second six is daunting at the best of times, but during this global pandemic things feel uncertain and strange. As I approach second six I have a whole new set of worries I didn’t have just seven days ago. Will my internet be fast enough? What if my phone cuts out? Is my working space appropriate?

In preparation for my first week I have downloaded a number of video conferencing applications including Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom and I am frantically trying to get familiar with each programme. I am also trying to get up to speed with paperless working and to do so effectively I will probably have to purchase a second device.

Many barristers have said there has been a decrease in the level of work as hearings are being adjourned. It is a concern that I may have an emptier diary than I would have done if I had started last month, which will inevitably impact my level of income. Another concern is that I won’t have the opportunity to start in the same way many others have – “on my feet” in court. Instead, my first case will likely be over the phone or via Skype. However, I know I’m not alone in this and I know it won’t be forever.

I am extremely luckily to have a great support network around me. I’m having regular remote contact with my supervisor, co-pupils and other members of chambers, who are always available and willing to help no matter what. Circuit have also determined that no pupils are to attend court or conferences in person for the foreseeable future. My chambers have adopted this position and therefore this minimises the risks to my health. I’m also amazed by our clerks and staff, who have worked tirelessly to get us all set up for remote working.

Even during times of uncertainty, it is important to think what positives this change could bring. Whilst I don’t know what impact Covid-19 will have on my future at the Bar, what I can say is once this is all over there is likely to be a huge shift in how family cases are dealt with on a daily basis. Legal professionals and the courts are going to become familiar with the brilliant technology that is available and new models of working will materialise. This, I think, will be a change for the better.

How has COVID-19 impacted your practice?

We would love to hear how Covd-19 has been impacting your day to day practice. If you’re interested in writing a blog for Women in Family Law, please email us. Be sure to check out the rest of the series of posts.