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Coronavirus (COVID-19): our priority issues

27 March 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is changing rapidly as well as the government’s advice. We’re monitoring the situation and listening to your concerns.

Our priorities are:

  • looking after our members’ safety – pushing for adequate safety measures to be introduced in courts, prisons and police stations
  • helping members keep their businesses going – urging government and other agencies, such as the Legal Aid Agency, to take action to address the difficulties likely to affect our members
  • helping members stay compliant – identifying where the crisis will affect our members’ ability to comply with particular rules
  • protecting the rule of law – seeking to ensure that measures put in place to keep the justice system functioning and the public safe respect the rule of law

These were our immediate priorities in the first days of the crisis. We're already starting to see results, and we're now turning to other issues that arise. To raise any issues, contact us.

What we’re doing

  • Making representations at the highest levels of the UK and Welsh governments, including with the lord chancellor, the lord chief justice and the secretary of state for business, enterprise and industrial strategy to raise concerns about member safety, business continuity and the rule of law
  • Liaising with the Ministry of Justice and the Solicitors Regulation Authority about legislative and regulatory concerns regarding executing wills, including requirements for witnessing wills, and the use of video conferencing facilities
  • Liaising with agencies, such as the Legal Aid Agency, on practical support for legal aid practitioners and firms. This includes suggestions for payment for advice provided remotely and provisions on wasted cost orders if a solicitor is unable to attend court
  • Influencing policies introduced in courts, prisons and police stations to ensure member safety and making sure relevant agencies are aware where these policies are not implemented in practice
  • Calling for practical measures to help members who are likely to face reduced business income and cash flow issues, which may threaten the financial viability of their firms
  • Ensuring regulators understand the implications of the crisis for our members and asking them to provide guidance on the most important issues
  • Identifying the practical barriers to members’ business continuity, such as requirements around wet signatures, physical presence and original documents, and working with relevant bodies to find solutions to these
  • Developing practical guidance for members on areas of practice, such as residential conveyancing and private client
  • Scrutinising key pieces of legislation, such as the Coronavirus Bill, and engaging with key officials and decision makers as it goes through scrutiny
  • Conducting research with law firms of different sizes to understand their needs and prioritise our efforts

What we’ve achieved so far

  • The government amended the proposed emergency coronavirus legislation to allow hearings under the Extradition Act 2003 to temporarily take place via a live link, and we ensured the government understood the need for a sunset clause
  • The government has confirmed that key workers include those “essential to the running of the justice system”, including solicitor advocates, duty solicitors and other similar categories. Read the full list
  • The Welsh Government has now included small-to-medium law firms within the criteria for its recently announced £100 million grant scheme for businesses
  • We've influenced safety policies introduced in courts, police stations and prisons
  • We influenced the Legal Aid Agency’s COVID-19 policies and procedures
  • We've ensured that the government’s business support package is developed with regard to the issues affecting our members
  • The SRA has listened to our concerns and developed proposals to ensure the majority of students can still sit their exams
  • The SRA has helped to clarify the situation for trainees

More information

Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice and updates

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and residential conveyancing transactions

For further details or queries not addressed in this page, email coronavirus@lawsociety.org.uk.

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