Update (23 March): Henderson has instead deferred, not cancelled, the current round of pupillage interviews until the summer and autumn, following discussions with the Bar Council.
Henderson Chambers has become the first set to bow out of this year’s pupillage recruitment round.
Chambers are in the midst of recruiting pupils for its 2021-22 cohort, as the Bar Council maintains the current timetable. Currently, chambers are in the interviewing stage which is made increasingly difficult with the majority of staff working from home.
Henderson Chambers said that it has taken the “difficult” decision to withdraw from this year’s recruitment round, with all members working from home.
“Interviews would need to be conducted by three or four-way video conferencing,” Henderson Chambers said.
“In view of increasing pressures on telephone and video conferencing facilities and their capacity, chambers cannot be confident that interviews conducted this way would be a fair reflection of a candidates ability.”
Chambers is supporting candidates who have been shortlisted for interviews and will be running online advice clinics.
Henderson will restart its pupillage campaign for 2022-2023 in November 2020. A source close to chambers told The Lawyer that they are disappointed to have taken this step, but said it was something it felt it had to do due to a lack of clear guidance from the Bar Council, which has not yet deferred recruitment until the autumn.
The Lawyer reported earlier today that several chambers have postponed mini-pupillage schemes, with the majority of sets operating on a co-location basis.
Yesterday, The Lawyer reported that the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal would be closing on March 23.
While the civil courts are still open for business, jury trials have been put on hold. Law firms are also grappling with the issue of how to continue operating despite the quick spread of the virus, with some having already closed their premises. Last week, Taylor Wessing closed its London office after a member off staff tested positive.
Baker McKenzie was the first firm to close its office in London on February 28, in response to a person returning from Northern Italy – one of the worst affected areas in Europe. Its office reopened on March 2.
Other firms to have closed offices include Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which shut in New York after a partner tested positive for COVID-19.
Clayton Utz closed its Sydney office on March 5, when an employee told the firm his wife was a family member of an elderly lady who died of COVID-19 earlier this week in Sydney. The member of staff and his wife tested negative and the firm reopened its office.
KWM also closed its 800-staff Sydney office due to a suspected case.