Covid-19 and the Legal Sector

 

You could be forgiven for wondering whether or not there is any subject to discuss other than Covid-19. Not only is there a global viral pandemic, there is also an anxiety pandemic that crosses all borders and institutions. We wanted to bring a little clarity during this period of great uncertainty. Here is how event are unfolding:

Government Response – Headlines

  • The government’s COVID-19 Emergency Bill was brought forward, and the strategy quickly moved from ‘contain’ to ‘delay’.
  • On March 16, Boris Johnson announced unprecedented measures in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. His (since frequently-repeated) instructions to the British public were clear: “Stay at home” (except for very specific reasons, as detailed on the government website).
  • Provisions continue to be made to speed up the production of medical equipment. Companies with excess capacity and appropriate manufacturing skills, such as car manufacturers, are helping the “national effort” in order to scale up production of medical ventilators. The government have ordered 10,000 ventilators from James Dyson’s vacuum cleaner firm; the company had “hundreds of engineers working round the clock” to design the machines. It is expected that this combined manufacturing effort will ensure that there are enough ventilators in place when UK cases of the virus peak.
  • Whilst London’s Excel Centre will soon become “NHS Nightingale” on a temporary basis, the Cobra committee has also mooted the possibility of using hotels for temporary accommodation or converting them into makeshift temporary hospital wards.

 

excel centre London

London’s Excel Centre will soon become “NHS Nightingale”

How is the Legal Profession Being Affected By Covid-19?

The legal sector is continually adapting to the evolving situation.

  • Emergency legislation has been introduced which allows for an increase in video hearings in courts. These provisions will ensure that individuals who are being forced to self-isolate are still able to appeal to a court. This will allow courts to continue their operations – even at the height of the pandemic.
  • As of 27 March, magistrates’ courts are only covering urgent work. However, ministers are considering allowing certain civil proceedings in the magistrates’ courts to be conducted via telephone or video, as well as the expansion of audio and video live links in various criminal proceedings.
  • As the sector’s governing body, The Law Society is keeping the Coronavirus situation under review. It is monitoring advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.
  • Our colleagues in the criminal defence arena are alive with valid concerns about their visits to Her Majesty’s Prisons where they have previously been prevented from taking tissues and hand gels.
  • In the courts, anti-terrorism security policy has been quickly amended in order to allow hand-sanitising gels into court buildings. The owner will be asked to use it in front of security personnel in order to prove that it is not a harmful substance.
  • There are still many unknowns: Should police custody sergeants be screening people when they are detained? Should they be asking the detainee if they have any symptoms? If so how will they be communicating this to the duty solicitor?

Our Response

We are temporarily using Zoom video conferencing for all meetings. Our published fixed fee will be reduced by 10% when instructions are taken via Zoom

 

As always, our focus remains entirely on our clients.

We’ve been planning to offer to hold meetings with clients and associates via video conferencing for a while now, but circumstances have encouraged us to bring these plans forward.

For the time being, we will be holding all meetings with clients and introducers using Zoom video conferencing.

Because travel time will not be involved for these calls, we are reducing our published fixed fee by 10% when instructions are taken via Zoom.

And, of course, we also invite an initial conversation by phone (01423 779479)

Wishing all of our clients well during this challenging time.