Blueprint for law firms and solicitors facing local lockdowns

This guidance is intended to help solicitors and law firms navigate local or area-specific lockdowns. We've signposted to resources that can help with these uncertain times

There may be differences in government advice between England and Wales.

Activate your business continuity plan

Activate your business continuity plan (BCP) and make sure that it covers the following points:

Critical staff

Staff wearing headset iconIdentify which staff members are critical to the running of the business and especially those who are authorised to implement and manage the BCP.

Take steps to ensure that those staff members are able to implement the plan remotely.

You should also consider how to cover those roles if a certain staff member is off work.

IT and lawtech

IT and lawtech iconMake sure that all policies relating to remote working are up to date and effective and/or amend policies as necessary to incorporate the lessons learned from lockdown.

Make sure that your organisation’s IT, lawtech and communications systems are in place and robust enough and can facilitate remote working. This should include ensuring that there’s sufficient equipment available.

This could be as simple as ensuring that company laptops can work securely on third party broadband and that company mobile phones can tether with company laptops, or that alternative broadband access is considered.

Depending on your firm’s requirements, it would be helpful to have:

  • remote access to your server and systems (even if it is through staff member’s own device)
  • secure video conference systems to get in touch with clients
  • an electronic signature platform

If you have questions on lawtech, email our team on coronavirus@lawsociety.org.uk.

Finance processes

Credit card iconReview finance processes and operations to ensure that staff can operate critical systems and that all staff can still be paid on time.

Put plans put in place to make sure that suppliers (including that IT, broadband and mobile phone) are paid on time.

If applicable, identify staff who have company credit cards to ensure that emergency purchases can be authorised.

Consider the likely impact on cashflow of a local lockdown and conduct scenario planning for a closedown of one month or two months. This could include:

  • preparing draft cashflow forecasts
  • projecting potential loss of income by looking at the practice areas which are likely to be adversely affected by a local closedown
  • identifying whether savings can be made in the short to medium term on expenditure and if anything could be deferred until post-lockdown

Communications

Mobile communication iconMake sure that all staff can access a secure common communication platform (such as a video conferencing system or a WhatsApp chat group).

For your external communications, prepare tailored emails, automated voice messages and website copy to enable clients to know how to contact the firm.

Working remotely or from other local offices

Working remotely iconIn a local lockdown scenario, individuals in the affected area should work from home if they are able to and only travel into, out of and within the local lockdown area for essential reasons.

If the office is in the affected area, but a staff member lives outside of the affected area, firms may wish to consider whether they can attend another local office if that office is outside of the affected area.

The government has provided guidelines on travel restrictions for areas under local lockdown.

Compliance

Risk and compliance iconReview your risk register and incorporate appropriate updates to reflect the possibility of a local lockdown.

Drafting your risk register may help to focus on mitigation steps that need to be taken in this scenario.

Check your cybersecurity

Cybersecurity iconScams and fraud are likely to be prevalent during local lockdowns.

Fraudsters are taking advantage of the measures announced by the government to support people and businesses affected by coronavirus.

For example, scammers may text, email or phone taxpayers pretending to offer financial support or tax refunds, or demanding payment of tax that they claim is owed.

Our cybersecurity and fraud prevention guidance addresses some of the key security issues and scams that are affecting members and their clients.

We’ve also highlighted some technological platforms that can help you and your firms remain compliant with your regulatory obligations.

Workforce planning and looking after your staff

Flexible furlough

Flexible furlough iconAs a result of local lockdown, some practice areas might be slower than others.

If staff have been furloughed, you might wish to review your existing arrangements and consider the flexible furloughing arrangements, which came into force on 1 July 2020.

Read our guidance for firms on flexible furlough

Wellbeing

Wellbeing iconManaging your staff remotely also requires time and planning. Read our guidance on:

It’s crucial to promote and support good mental health and wellbeing for staff and practitioners during a second or subsequent lockdown.

If you run a large firm, make sure that virtual protocols for team management are put in place to further ensure that all staff are safe and feel supported.

If you manage a small firm, consider introducing a buddying system for newer team members.

Enable your practice areas to keep business going

For your transactional work

Electronic signatures iconElectronic signatures and virtual execution of documents have enabled deals to be closed and business to keep moving during lockdown.

These resources will help practitioners to use these methods effectively:

Check our website regularly, as we’ll be posting insight on specific rules. For example, on 3 July 2020, the government published its lockdown regulations for Leicester.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told us that the regulations do not, as far as they’re aware, contain any additional restrictions on moving home. People in Leicester will still be allowed to leave home in order to move or facilitate a house move.

Find out more:

For your contentious work

Court building iconContact local courts and police stations to understand the status of these services.

We’ll also update our courts and tribunals tracker map.

Keep in touch with local decision makers

Decision makers iconTo help you plan for getting out of lockdown, make sure you have the contact details of:

  • local business forums
  • local law societies
  • councillors 

Get ready to go back to the office

Check our practical framework for return to the office, which is updated regularly with the latest government guidance.

What’s next?

We’ll continue to provide the advice and direct support our members need to help weather this storm, and to make the case to the government for strong support for the legal services sector.

It’s expected there will be teething problems with the first set of local lockdowns, and we want to quickly and efficiently communicate to government the areas you need more clarity on.

Contact us with concerns, either by contacting your relationship manager or emailing coronavirus@lawsociety.org.uk.

Find out more about our Return, Restart and Recovery campaign