Future Lawyers Lament Lockdown Treatment, Limits of Virtual Learning

Law.Com

22 July 2020

Law students at BPP University have signed an open letter demanding a partial refund of fees, while another future trainee expressed concern at virtual training contracts.

Students at BPP University and a future trainee lawyer have expressed their fears over missing vital training and being left behind by the legal industry as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A group of people taking the legal practice course (LPC) course at BPP University in London shared their anger over the university’s lack of communication and resources with students during the U.K. lockdown and are demanding a pro-rata refund of tuition fees, according to an open letter addressed to the university’s Vice Chancellor.
Among the complaints listed by around 100 LPC students were: a failure to provide teaching materials to students working remotely; a dramatic increase in class sizes; delays in notifications from the university regarding exams; and the university’s refusal to refund printing costs.

The group has further criticised the university for demanding full payment of fees despite campuses being closed, which the letter says fails to deliver “value for money”.
The open letter concludes: “Overall, BPP University’s response to lockdown and coronavirus has only served to create an environment of mistrust and anxiety for students, severely degrade the quality of teaching and assessment, and push as many costs of adjusting to lockdown onto students.”

It adds that BPP’s main competitor, The University of Law, has dealt with similar problems successfully. The letter says that since BPP’s main rival has been able to avoid issues, “we feel that this shows that our expectations as students are both reasonable and achievable”.

In a statement, BPP said: “We cannot comment on individual complaints but confirm that all concerns raised by students are taken seriously and dealt with using the processes stated in our regulations.
“We understand and are sympathetic to students impacted by the disruption caused by the unprecedented nature of COVID-19. Whilst we have taken many steps to provide opportunities for students to continue to progress, if at all possible, our number one priority has been ensuring the safety of students and colleagues.”

Elsewhere, a trainee set to join the London office of a top U.S. firm wrote in a letter to the Telegraph that she was “quite alarmed to read that people would prefer never to go back to the office”.

In the letter, the trainee said that, while more established lawyers may benefit from decisions to work remotely post-lockdown, “where does that leave junior lawyers just starting out?”

She wrote that fundamental to a training contract is “observing, listening and learning from senior lawyers in person”, adding: “I struggle to see how this could be replicated virtually.”

A raft of law firms have introduced new measures regarding training contracts during the coronavirus pandemic, including HFW which is paying its upcoming September trainees £5,000 after deferring their start dates by seven months to April 2021, and DWF which is organising a ‘buddy scheme’ for final-seat trainees, which involves pairing up with partners who qualified during the financial crisis in 2008-09.

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