Recovery from impact of COVID-19 starts here, says solicitors’ leader

A new campaign to help the legal profession play its part in getting the economy back on its feet in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic was today launched by the Law Society of England and Wales.

The new initiative, the three ‘Rs’ - Return, Restart and Recovery, promotes the role of the solicitors’ profession in the national move to re-open the country.

This campaign will be in three stages: helping solicitors and firms return to their offices safely; helping solicitors and firms to restart the economy; and empowering solicitors and firms to drive the recovery after coronavirus.

“Solicitors are ready, willing and able to play their role in helping Britain’s economy and society to recover from this pandemic,” said Simon Davis, president of the Law Society.

“All across the country, solicitors have worked tirelessly for their clients to ensure the highest standard of service. I am proud of the role solicitors have played to keep the wheels of justice turning through this extraordinarily challenging time.

“As we enter this new phase of the response to coronavirus, with government beginning to lift some restrictions, it is clear that technology will play a vital role in driving the post-coronavirus recovery across all sectors of the economy, including legal services.

“We want to help our members prepare as the government begins to lift restrictions and solicitors slowly return to the office in the coming weeks.”

As part of this campaign, ahead of the expected statement from the chancellor of the exchequer, the Law Society is calling on the government to empower law firms to create the new jobs that will provide the backbone of the sector in the long-term, by giving them the flexibility to spend apprenticeship levy on a range of support. This includes enabling firms to use the levy money for:

  • lawtech seats and training in lawtech skills
  • training in secondary specialisations which will enable people to re-train in other practice areas
  • training contracts to maintain the jobs pipeline for students about to complete the LPC
  • supporting other organisations (including in the third sector) by funding joint roles. This would enable firms to deliver pro-bono work in partnership with legal charities, helping to meet the likely rise in demand for such services and provide more efficient access to legal advice

The Law Society is also asking the government to invest now in driving the adoption of technologies that will build the resilience of local economies and provide the bedrock of our future prosperity. This should include:

  • providing tax incentives for law firms, legal services providers and lawtech start-ups that develop and adopt lawtech, such as research and development tax credits and allowances (similar to capital allowances)
  • extending the eligibility of the Future Fund to lawtech start-ups by relaxing the requirement of a minimum level of £250,000 of seed capital
  • embracing the data revolution by establishing a legal data trust to improve accessibility of data for those seeking to innovate in the legal services sector
  • invest in upskilling the judiciary to ensure the business and property courts are able to deal efficiently with intellectual property claims arising from lawtech, and task the Intellectual Property Office with educating firms and lawtech developers on how to ensure their lawtech IP is protected

Additionally, there has been a call for targeted tax incentives to support employment and stimulate activity in key domestic markets. Among these are:

  • an extension to the VAT and income tax deferral schemes to help firms with their cash flow. A longer repayment schedule would help to prevent a crunch point for many businesses early next year
  • a temporary reduction in the VAT standard rate from 20% to boost consumer demand and support suppliers of standard rated goods and services across a wide range of sectors including the legal sector
  • a temporary relief for employers’ National Insurance contributions to help incentivise staff retention and recruitment as the job retention scheme comes to an end

“We want to build resilience in our communities by making justice accessible to all,” Simon Davis added.

“This can be achieved by ensuring employment tribunals are properly and sustainably funded in a way that protects the rights of workers and employers to access the tribunal – without reinstating issue fees, as well as committing to ending legal aid deserts. We need to ensure everyone in this country is able to access legal advice when they need it and make sure they are equipped to help rebuild their local communities after coronavirus.

“Properly funding the legal aid system and restarting the review of the legal aid means test to enable fairer and wider access for legal aid support, is also vital.

“Our new campaign is out to tackle all these areas and will also support individual solicitors who might be going through redundancy with a comprehensive support package made up of training and development.”

Notes to editors

The Return stage focuses on supporting law firms to re-open their doors safely and business support measures to address the courts’ backlog which do not compromise on the quality of justice.

The Restart stage focuses on steps the government can take to help solicitors in revitalising key markets, such as:

  • bespoke support for the civil and criminal legal aid sectors
  • changes to the apprenticeship levy to promote job creation and training, and
  • targeted tax incentives to support employment and stimulate activity in key markets

The Recover stage focuses on the wider role legal services will play in the country’s recovery from coronavirus, both in economic terms and in social ones. This means:

  • continuing to promote England and Wales internationally as a global legal centre
  • investing in adoption of new technologies in the legal sector, and
  • ensuring access to justice for all to help ensure our communities emerge from the crisis more resilient and more supported than before

Find out more about the Return, Restart and Recovery campaign

Read our submission to HM Treasury

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Mary Ann Day | 020 8049 3869