The Effect of COVID-19 on the Law

Law Training Contract Application Specialists

COVID-19 has had huge implications for every industry, and the law is no different. You’ll need to be confident on the effects of the pandemic, especially on areas of the law that the firm you are applying to specialises in, and areas that you have highlighted as being of particular interest to you. Here, we summarise the effect of the pandemic on some core areas.

Banking & Finance: Info for Training Contract Interviews

2020 saw very poor performance across financial sectors, which led to a buoying in 2021 with the alleviation of lockdowns and increased spending as a result. The lockdowns, along with people becoming less keen on face-to-face contact and its potential to spread COVID-19, led to technology becoming more important than ever before for the financial system. Banks accelerated their move toward a digital-first system, with customers becoming more reliant on online banking. Along with this, contactless payments were adopted by more customers, as businesses began to either refuse cash payments, or at least open the gates to contactless due to pressure from governments. If you’re hoping to work in a banking and finance orientated role, consider the benefits and challenges of these changes.

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Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions: Info for Training Contract Interviews

M&A had a similar down year to any other field, with 2020 being markedly slower than previous years in the 2010s. However, there was renewed activity here too in 2021. Deal volume increased by 30% from 2021 to 2021, with more than a 130% increase in deal value. This was primarily a result of US-led deals, with EU deals accounting for around $550B vs more than $1.3T for the US. Much like banking and finance, the focus is very much on tech, with tech deals seeing a 75% increase in deal volume from 2020 to 2021.

Competition & Antitrust: Info for Training Contract Interviews

When considering competition and antitrust, you first need to consider the effects of a pandemic – people being unable to work, borders shutting, and thus the discontinuation of existing supply chains and manufacturing processes. This problem meant that governments had to relax some laws in order to continue production of essential products, and to continue provision of essential services. The European Commission put a temporary framework into place that allowed member states to use state aid rules to increase flexibility, and the UK government was also forced to relax competition laws. The CMA was forced to establish a COVID-19 task force in 2020 due to increased incidents of anti-competition. This is perhaps best epitomised by the testing market in Britain, that has come to be dominated by somewhat shadowy entities seemingly able to charge radically different prices from one another for the same service.

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Litigation: Info for Training Contract Interviews

The primary issue for litigation is that of unfulfilled contract obligations – many parties were unable to fulfil their contractual obligations due to supply chain issues, or decreased revenue directly caused by the pandemic. This had led to force majeure clauses being invoked, and the possibility of contract claims being placed in the coming months and years.

The Lord Chancellor was forced to speak out on modernisation due to the pandemic’s effects on the legal system itself, claiming that measures used in the pandemic could be seen as a tool for the modernisation of the justice system. Indeed, the move to remote hearings in particular stands out in this area, with as many as 20,000 hearings each week taking place virtually. Due to a backlog of cases, it is expected that virtual hearings will continue, even if the pandemic and restrictions ease entirely.

Restructuring & Insolvency: Info for Training Contract Interviews

This is an area that has benefited from the pandemic. The UK government introduced the CIGA, or Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act, in June 2020. This act brought in new measures aimed at companies in financial difficulty due to COVID-19. Measures include a new restructuring plan, the temporary outlawing of winding-up petitions made against companies whose debts were unpaid due to COVID-19, and provisions to protect the supply of particular goods and services dubbed essential to the economy. Measures were extended from 2020 through to 2021, and may be continued depending on the ongoing situation. Insolvencies, already an issue during the pandemic, might see a further increase after government help for businesses is removed and they face staff costs that they simply cannot pay. 

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