Coronavirus (COVID-19): our priority issues

The 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:

  • safe return to the office – read about our new campaign: Return, Restart and Recovery
  • 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've done

During the first week of lockdown, we conducted a survey to identify the needs of City firms. Some of the main concerns were:

  • cash flow and loss of income
  • difficulties on the mechanics of closing deals, particularly processes that require wet signatures, slowing down business
  • regulatory burdens, such as the reporting requirements of DAC 6
  • mental health and wellbeing, particularly of junior staff
  • the impact of the partnership structure on eligibility for government financial support
  • the increased costs of having to renew professional indemnity insurance
  • the economic slowdown during the lockdown and in the extended period after it, where its 'economic shadow' will still be felt

Lobbying Treasury, MoJ and BEIS and engaging with the SRA

Theses concerns were shared with government, parliament and the opposition through:

  • daily calls with the Ministry of Justice and weekly calls with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • ongoing conversations with the Treasury, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Governmnet and others
  • conversations with the chair of the Justice Committee in Parliament and our president giving oral evidence as part of its inquiry on the impact of COVID on legal services and the justice system
  • regular contact with the shadow lord chancellor and shadow attorney general

We've also engaged with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on these issues.

What we've achieved

Following these representations, we've secured a number of positive developments for the profession:

  • convinced the MoJ and SRA to allow oaths relating to commercial transactions to be sworn via videolink (although appropriate record keeping will help if the oath's validity is later challenged)
  • persuaded the Land Registry to accept Mercury signatures, following our feedback on the difficulties of obtaining wet signatures in the current circumstances
  • ensured that the majority of trainees and students can still sit their exams, despite the SRA's initial intention to suspend these
  • lobbied the government to amend the proposed emergency coronavirus legislation to allow hearings under the Extradition Act 2003 to take place temporarily via a live link, as well as making sure the government understood the need for a sunset clause in the legislation
  • secured amendments to the domestic abuse gateway to reduce the evidence requirements, which helped victims of domestic abuse to get emergency injunctions during lockdown
  • negotiated a protocol on remote attendances at the police station with the National Police Chiefs Council, which has been incorporated into PACE rules
  • contributed to the development of a risk assessment tool showing how individual courts are implementing PHE guidance
  • secured a range of operational changes in the legal aid system to facilitate remote working
  • economic crime levy consultation was deferred until July
  • persuaded the MoJ to allow video witnessing of wills with appropriate procedures in place

Along with other groups, we persuaded the Treasury, British Business Bank and HMRC to:

  • defer the reporting deadline of the EU mandatory disclosure rules (DAC 6) by six months in order to provide taxpayers and intermediaries dealing with the impacts of COVID-19 additional time to ensure they can comply with their obligations
  • reduce its restrictive security criteria by not seeking guarantees for loans less than £250,000 and not taking security over an applicant's primary residence for larger loans
  • create a specific loan scheme for firms with turnover exceeding £45 million that are unable to access the Bank of England's loan scheme
  • extend the Job Retention Scheme, leading to the extension until October and the ability to have part-time furlough
  • provide an emergency support grant to the Law Centres Network, the Access to Justice Foundation and other frontline charities to continue their work through the COVID-19 crisis

See our infographic on 100 days in lockdown

More information

Return, Restart and Recovery campaign

Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for members

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and residential conveyancing transactions

See all our coronavirus guidance

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