Future lawyers wondering how to gain work experience during the COVID-19 pandemic will welcome the news that global law firm Kennedys has launched a virtual work experience programme that is expanding potential spaces from the usual 120 on site to thousands of remote students.

Some 2,180 students have already signed up to the four-module programme, which is said to offer real work experience as participants complete a variety of tasks to gain legal analytical skills, develop legal knowledge of the insurance industry, and learn critical legal communication, research and drafting skills.

Caroline Wilson, HR director at Kennedys, said: “In this new world we are now working in, this programme is a fantastic way to open up access to everyone and move on from the traditional on-site work experience. Students often feel under pressure to buy traditional office clothes which they might not be able to afford or perhaps have to travel long distances to come into the office, which can be overwhelming. Instead, students from any school, college or university can undertake real-life tasks that our junior lawyers complete.”

Students will watch videos from four current trainees and apprentices who will ask for their assistance in completing a task. The platform allows for students to interact with virtual clients and colleagues in a way that replicates real-life work experience.

They will be asked to prepare a witness statement (Liability), prepare a PowerPoint presentation for a client pitch (Insurance), leave a voicemail for a client (Healthcare) and undertake a legal research exercise on ‘force majeure’ (Commercial). There are both written and verbal instructions for each task.

After they complete each task, students have access to a model answer to compare theirs against. They will receive a completion certificate at the end, which they can add to their CV and LinkedIn profiles.

Enrolment is open to all students and graduates, from a law or non-law background and no legal experience is required.

Samuel Clague, founder and CEO of The Stephen James Partnership, told Legal IT Insider: “Virtual internships and work opportunities are increasing in popularity, both from an employer and employee perspective. These programmes will likely increase the diversity of potential applicants, as many barriers such as travel and living costs are mitigated. Any initiative that widens the opportunity for future lawyers is great to see and something I am passionate about.”

This is a sentiment shared by Suzanne Liversidge, managing partner at Kennedys, who said: “This year has presented many challenges and it became apparent early on that one of them would be running our work experience programme. We could have chosen to not run one this year, but we felt it was important to find a way to ensure that we still provided a programme but via an innovative and different way. Moving from a traditional workplace experience model to an entirely virtual programme provides anyone, anywhere, access to this excellent learning opportunity. All you need is Wi-Fi and we will welcome you into Kennedys for the day.”