Update on legal practitioner keyworkers and testing

The government has rightly acknowledged that keeping the justice system running during the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis is vital, and that legal practitioners are fundamental to achieving this aim.

The Department for Education announced that those essential to the running of the justice system would in certain circumstances be recognised as “key workers” who may ask schools to continue to take their children.

New: Testing for solicitor key workers

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that solicitors recognised as key workers (as set out below) are eligible for COVID-19 testing.

Access the testing portal

If you are registering as an employer, please indicate that you have essential staff as your employees are working with the MoJ to support the delivery of the justice system. 

Clarification on legal practitioners covered by key worker category

The Ministry of Justice has now issued further guidance on which legal practitioners come within this limited category of key workers:

"The government has confirmed that key workers include those ‘essential to the running of the justice system’. The Ministry of Justice shared a list of key workers within this category.

We would like to provide further clarification of those legal practitioners covered within this category who are essential to the running of the justice system, and, in particular, the courts and tribunals:

  • advocates (including solicitor advocates) required to appear before a court or tribunal (remotely or in person), including prosecutors
  • other legal practitioners required to support the administration of justice including duty solicitors (police station and court) and barristers, solicitors, legal executives, paralegals and others who work on imminent or ongoing court or tribunal hearings
  • solicitors acting in connection with the execution of wills
  • solicitors and barristers advising people living in institutions or deprived of their liberty

Only legal practitioners who work on the types of matters, cases and hearings listed above, will be permitted to be classified as a key worker.

In addition, some legal practitioners will intermittently fall into this category because they need to provide advice or attend a hearing for an urgent matter relating, for example, to safeguarding of children or vulnerable adults, or a public safety matter. For the limited time required to deliver this work, a legal practitioner will be a key worker."

The purpose of the closure of schools is to keep us all safe, and to minimise the risk of transmission of coronavirus. Asking the school to look after your children should be an exceptional step where this is essential in order to keep the wheels of justice turning.

The government's guidance makes clear that even if you are a key worker, if your child can be looked after at home, they should be.

In the current climate schools are not open just for education, but as places of safety for the few children who cannot safely be looked after at home, because those who are caring for them are key workers doing essential work.

Solicitors will need to decide responsibly for themselves whether they fall within the categories outlined, within the spirit of being essential to the running of the justice system, in accordance with the overriding objective of keeping children at home wherever possible.

We must all work together to help society get through this crisis, keep the system of justice in operation and the rule of law upheld.

We are regularly updating our website with responses to FAQs from our members, advice from key agencies such as the Legal Aid Agency and HMCTS and updates on the policy work we're doing on members’ behalf in response to COVID-19.

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