New national lockdown and what it means for legal services

The UK government has published guidance on the new national lockdown announced on 4 January 2021.

This is the Law Society’s interpretation of the guidance and how it affects law firms and solicitors (including sole practitioners and freelance solicitors) in England and Wales, which we've checked with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

If you have any questions or issues, contact us.

The new rules

Working at home and working in the office

  • Staff should work from home unless it's not reasonable for them to do so
  • Staff that have to go to the office should do so and they can travel to and from work
  • Law firms can remain open if necessary, provided they follow the government’s COVID secure guidelines

Travel

  • Solicitors who need to travel internationally for work can do so
  • Solicitors who need to stay in overnight accommodation for work purposes are allowed to do so

Meeting clients

  • Solicitors can visit clients in their offices or at home (if necessary) provided they follow COVID secure guidance on working in someone’s home
  • Clients can leave home to obtain services, although these should be local if at all possible
  • Where possible, meetings with clients should be virtual. Alternatives should be explored to avoid meeting clients, such as arranging signing of documents using electronic signature platforms, posting documents to clients, video conferences or calls. If virtual alternatives are not possible, clients can leave home to fulfil a legal obligation

House moves and conveyancing

  • House moves are allowed and facilitation of house moves is also allowed

Evictions (England only)

  • The government has announced that the ban on bailiff evictions from residential properties will be extended until 21 February 2021 at least, with these measures to be kept under review

Attending court

  • It's permissible to meet people from another household for work purposes and to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service or for gatherings within criminal justice accommodation or immigration detention centres
  • Courts will remain open and it's possible to leave home to attend court

Critical workers (England only)

Some solicitors that are essential to the running of the justice system are classed as critical workers.

The Ministry of Justice has confirmed to us that this category only applies to:

  • 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

We've sought clarification from the Welsh government on the definition of key/critical worker under the new rules.

Further information

Read the full government guidance

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