The good, the bad and the pandemic: surviving articles during Covid
Authors: Disebo Leokaoke – Candidate Attorney
*Supervised by: Ushir Ahir – Director
When I began my articles of clerkship in January 2020, to say I was on an emotional roller-coaster does not quite capture the spectrum of anxiety, excitement, confusion, and plain old fear that I experienced. I was wide-eyed, fresh out of University where I had just completed a highly demanding degree and I had countless expectations of what my life and career should look like, some unrealistic and others that would demand that I bring all my potential to the table in order to achieve. I had a vague idea of what the two-year long interview would entail, as those who came before me told countless tales of file making, pagination, photocopying of one too many documents and runs to court that leave one feeling bewildered. What I was not told, was how I should deal with completing my articles amid a global pandemic and I really wish someone had warned me. So, this is it: the warning, and the survival kit to assist aspiring graduates and legal practitioners with their journey through articles of clerkship in the “new normal.”
The entire legal profession migrated onto digital platforms.
In March 2020, upon the declaration of the National State of Disaster, articles as we knew them changed forever. The entire legal profession migrated onto digital platforms. Court hearings no longer meant sitting in a physical court room and meetings with clients no longer included free cappuccino as online meeting rooms are not equipped with that useful function. Unfortunately, this meant less interaction with those who provided support and free therapy when it was most needed. It also meant walking around with half-covered faces, at least saving one from the repercussions arising from the unexpected facial expressions made when things do not go our way.
If there is one thing that remained intact, it is the cutthroat nature of the legal profession where the ability to adapt is crucial. While the manner in which things are done has evolved drastically, the core principles have stayed the same. Even in a global pandemic one still needs to work hard and set oneself apart. You still need to earn your stripes, and this is done by ensuring that each and every task you are given is completed to the best of your ability, paying specific attention to detail, taking responsibility when you have made a mistake and asking when you require clarity. Being innovative, problem solving and able to take initiative will surely leave a positive impression on your seniors and being kind and polite will enable you to receive assistance from even the most unlikely sources.
It is important to identify a support system and ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. If possible, seek the assistance of a professional.
Although the above will assist you in navigating your journey towards your name on the letterhead, there are a few additional things to keep in mind to successfully complete your articles in the new normal. These include:
Ensure that you are adequately equipped with the necessary computer skills, as cases are heard online, meetings with clients are mainly on digital platforms and most of the High Court filing system is now on the Caselines platform.
Time management skills are critical – in instances where the option to work from home exists, it is easy for things to fall between the cracks. Keep a list of all outstanding tasks and ensure that all completed tasks are ticked off in order to easily identify what still needs to be done.
As a candidate attorney, even a pandemic will not absolve you from your pagination duties and other administrative tasks. Keep sticky notes that you can scribble on when you are being given instructions in order to keep track of what you are being asked to do.
This is the best time for innovation. Identify areas in which you can contribute and launch that big idea.
Mental health has been brought to the forefront due to the uncertainty, economic devastation, isolation and loss brought about by Covid. It is important to identify a support system and ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. If possible, seek the assistance of a professional.
Do not wear your work-from-home slippers at work and similarly do not get strangled by a tie when working from home.
When having an online meeting do not forget to turn off the cat filter before turning on your camera, and make sure you are on mute before going on a private rant.
The legal profession has been given the opportunity to evolve and grow and candidate attorneys are at the heart of the growth.
Although the pandemic was accompanied by mass devastation and the continuous application of highly concentrated liquid on one’s hands, it has no doubt also presented a myriad opportunities. The legal profession has been given the opportunity to evolve and grow and candidate attorneys are at the heart of the growth. Every day presents a different set of challenges but in the same breath, new opportunities are always present. The chaotic state of affairs has settled over the past year and the journey has been made easier by those who are always willing to offer support and impart their knowledge. Darwin’s theory has never been more relevant: only those who work hard, adapt and set themselves apart will survive.
Lawtons Africa is a South African law firm. With roots that grew out of seeds sown in down-town Johannesburg in 1892, our history features various changes and different names. Our team of lawyers, including directors, consultants, associates and candidate attorneys is highly qualified, market-recognised and skilled. For further information, visit www.lawtonsafrica.com