The year 2020 has been catastrophic for the entire world and disruptive for all industries and businesses alike. Graduating during such turmoil can be worrying and depressing for students in all disciplines.
Many lawyers and law students of today may have picked up the pursuit of justice as their study of choice after having read novels such as those written by the acclaimed writer John Grisham. Others may have entered the legal field with different ambitions while some may have even resorted to it as a last option. Amidst all this, one truth remains certain – the profession of law is no walk in the park.
Fresh law graduates have been welcomed with numerous issues since time immemorial. These include the painstakingly long work hours, the inevitable disappointment in verdicts, an extremely competitive job markets that is difficult to penetrate from a global point of view, and the necessity of networking to achieve what merit should grant.
Compile these issues with a global pandemic which has spread over the entire world and what do you get? Anxious, uncertain and disgruntled graduates who have spent at least three of the best years of their life investing in their education and grooming, but who now lack the confidence to dive into their professional lives owing to the lack of clarity in what the future may hold.
Yesterday’s efforts to network and intern at law firms and build resumes, the nervousness before exams, the input of professors dedicating their time and knowledge to teaching, all seem to be in vain today. A looming cloud of pessimism is now shrouding the high hopes for the future previously held by the beloved class of 2020. The author, however, seeks to dismiss this and hopes to enlighten the graduates as to what the future may hold for us.
The struggle within this profession is a universal truth, but it is also pertinent to mention here that the effects of COVID-19 are undoubtedly going to lead to many more changes. No longer will we fearlessly crowd in bar rooms and courtrooms in herds, no longer will we so enthusiastically invite clients into our chambers, and no more will we desperately travel between cities to represent our clients. These are just some of the changing trends that the author predicts for the profession.
On 24th March 2020, the United Kingdom Supreme Court closed its doors as it began a new era of hearing cases and delivering judgments via video-link. Pakistan’s apex court had inaugurated its video-link system of hearing cases on 20th September 2019. As of 17th April 2020, videoconferencing has been proposed to be utilized as the foremost method of hearing cases in Pakistan in light of COVID-19.
The profession may have taken a blow in terms of the footfall of clients and the accessibility to courts being reduced, as most districts in Pakistan experienced a period of lockdown during which many cases went unheard. However, it does not mean there is no hope for a system and mechanism in future to assist litigants in pursuing their cases from the comfort of their respective domains. Many global companies are reducing the number of in-person meetings to not just reduce costs but also to prevent the spread of the dreaded coronavirus. It is predicted that the legal profession will follow suit.
Corporate in-house practice, an area favoured by numerous graduates, has seen massive lay offs with corporate and commercial lawyers’ retainers being canceled in the UK, the US, Pakistan and other countries. The global market is predicted to face a recession this year if not the next, and while that may sound discouraging, global businesses have also been following a pattern of increasing their output and profitability post-recession, inevitably creating a massive need for skilled lawyers.
The pandemic has not only taught us a lesson in the vulnerability of the human race but has also reinstated the value of human life and public health, paving way for human rights law to take center stage again. The future legislation of most states affected by this terrible virus is more likely to revolve around the need for stronger healthcare infrastructure and the need to protect those most vulnerable in society. The pandemic has taught us that disease has no regard for wealth or social strata. Critical thinkers and analytically skilled legal professionals will be needed to ensure that public service infrastructures follow the principles of justice and equity, not only in legislation but also in its enforcement in different sectors of public interaction, including in the corporate business sphere.
There can be further discussion on the opportunities that may arise, but for now, the author hopes that a spark of hopeful brilliance can be ignited in the minds of those graduating in the shadows of a world in crisis.
Class of 2020, we have confidence in you, we appreciate you and we have faith in you to rise above and beyond the challenges posed by the world today. You have witnessed a global war, an earth-shattering recession and most importantly, the demons that have haunted you in the pursuit of your profession. Do not let this pandemic distort your view of the light at the end of this dark tunnel. You must adapt to these rapidly changing times in order to excel. There is much more to be achieved and there will be an endless need for your skill in tomorrow’s world.
I end this letter to you with words from Bal-e-Jibril by the prominent Urdu literary, Allama Iqbal:
“Sitaaron say aagay jahan aur bhee hain;
Abhi ishq kay imtehaan aur bhee hain.”
A graduate of 2020.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.