NZ Law Firms Cut Graduate Programmes and Law Jobs Amid Pandemic Panic

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Law firms have faced challenges over their graduate programmes amid the COVID-19 crisis with some firms either cutting their programmes or moving more of them online. Major law firms have also withdrawn jobs from the market.

A senior recruiter told LawFuel that many larger law firms have placed their graduate recruitment programmes on hold for this year and possibly for next year also.

However law firms are exceedingly coy about disclosing the actual position, although a recent report on LawFuel from our US correspondent indicated that many major law firmsin the US and elsewhere were moving their graduate programmes online or reducing them – or both.

But law firms, which typically show something of a herd mentality in terms of taking leadership roles on matters relating to legal recruitment and graduate programmes, including pay rates, are somewhat blindsided by the speed with which the COVID pandemic hit them.

A survey of major law firms by LawFuel produced a handful of responses with several firms failing to reply at the time of publication.

Chapman Tripp said they had made the “difficult decision” to cancel their one-week winter clerk programme during the mid-year university break, as a result of the uncertainty over the COVID-19 lockdown and whether they could deliver “a valuable and positive experience” in that situation.

The firm has also delayed summer and law clerk interviews to July-August in the hope that students can be met personally. It has also “adapted and digitised some of the components of our graduate recruitment programme, increasingly using video communications to keep students updated.”

Simpson Grierson are proceeding with their summer clerk and recruitment with adjustments to deal with the COVID crisis. The firm says that in consultation with the NZLSA and other law firms their recruitment timelines have been amended, including pushing back the application close-off and interview dates, which are now scheduled for July and August although the situation is being monitored as the country moves through Alert Level 2.

Bell Gully said their application period for the pgorammes was lengthened following a request from the university law student societies. Interviews have been deferred to the second half of the year and the firm says they have experienced a 20 per cent increase in the number of applications received.

A spokesman said the firm is looking at the best way to interview shortlisted candidates to ensure safety and wellbeing of all concerned.

Meredith Connell said its recruitment programme was running for 2020, having commenced pre-lockdown in February. Presumably a substantial proportion is also online. The firm said that although the firm will be recruiting graduates in 2021 the details of the process are yet to be determined, which is also presumably precisely the position that most firms are currently in.

LawFuel will report on the other major firms who have yet to reply. Nor has the Law Society made any comment, despite requests to do so.

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