Your weekly Law Society update
As the professional body for solicitors, every week the Law Society is working hard to influence the legal and regulatory environment on behalf of our profession and to promote solicitors at home and abroad. We support practice excellence, are an informed source of legal sector news and support members at every stage of their career.
As your professional body we’re hearing a lot from our members on the ground. We’re using that insight as the voice of solicitors with government and regulators during the pandemic. We’re developing advice and support to help you through this difficult period.
Our priorities are:
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.
- looking after our members’ safety – from protecting our members in courts to pushing for documents to be signed remotely
- helping members keep their businesses going – from advice on government support to tips on remote working
- helping members stay compliant – lobbying regulators to make changes
- protecting the rule of law – scrutinising the emergency legislation
Stay up to date with our resources and support
The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is changing day by day. We're monitoring the situation and developing advice and support to help you through these unprecedented times.
Stay up to date by following us on Twitter and visiting our regularly updated online resources for our latest advice. Stay informed with what we're doing to help look after your safety, keep your businesses going and protect the rule of law.
> Read our latest advice and updates
> Follow us on Twitter
> Read our priority issues
The Law Society’s media profile during the last two weeks
Coronavirus and the justice system
Please note that decisions and events have in some cases superseded these reports
The lord chancellor has insisted courts must go on sitting – reported in the Gazette. This follows a decision by the lord chief justice to limit trials by jury.
I said: “In these challenging times, it is vital the wheels of justice continue to turn. In order to preserve access to justice and the rule of law, courts need to operate and legal representation must be available. This means the health of those keeping the system functioning must be protected to the greatest extent possible.”
I was also quoted in the New Law Journal and Solicitor’s Journal saying: “We are speaking continually with HM Courts and Tribunals Service, the MoJ and the LAA. They are trying keep the system of justice on the road whilst ensuring practitioners are not put at risk. They know what needs to be done.”
Practical Law reported that the Ministry of Justice has clarified which solicitors they consider to be key workers and cover our statement that solicitors must decide for themselves if they fit this description.
Ian Kelcey, co-chair of our criminal law committee, spoke to talkRadio (in the 8:30 – 9:00 slot from 11:42), where he discussed the government’s decision to lockdown prisons and suspend visits due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Metro and Legal Futures reported that solicitors have voiced concerns about police stations’ attitude towards prisoners with suspected coronavirus. Ian Kelcey said: “Currently, with police stations, we take the view the police are taking a very lax attitude to all of this.”
The Law Society is pushing for policies and procedures to be implemented to protect our members when visiting clients in prison.
Mark Davies, a criminal solicitor in Swansea and member of the wales committee, was on BBC Wales News last evening speaking about the issues faced by criminal lawyers due to coronavirus.
Meanwhile, whiplash diagnosis is to be allowed via video link, reported The Gazette. It is the latest concession to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis. The decision was prompted not only by safety concerns, but also by the financial impact on claimant lawyers, who faced being unable to progress any cases because clients could not be diagnosed remotely.
Max Winthrop, chair of our employment law committee, spoke with BBC Radio Nottingham (from 1:36:37) where he was on a coronavirus panel of experts, answering employment questions from listeners.
Max also spoke with TalkRadio (in the 10:30 – 11:00 slot at 04:41), about the impact on employers and employees of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.
He took part in a Q&A on LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty show (from 2pm) on rights during the coronavirus crisis and he spoke to BBC Radio Humberside (from 3:25:06) about self-employed and temporary workers’ rights, and also provided advice for employers in this uncertain time.
He was on BBC Radio Northampton (from 3:12:34) talking construction workers’ rights if they are ordered to stop work by the government and BBC Radio Merseyside (from 2:11:23) discussing the same topic.
Max was also on BBC Radio Newcastle (from 2:48:53) about the announcement by chancellor Rishi Sunak on self-employed workers’ rights.
Roy Daby, a partner at Giles Wilson, spoke with BBC Radio Essex (from 40.08 ) about employment rights in the context of being forced to take unpaid leave. He also discussed how sick pay works around coronavirus.
Wedding cancellations and consumer rights
Gary Rycroft, chair of our digital assets working group and a consumer law expert is quoted in Bride, Grazia, Wedding Ideas and Bride Magazine about how coronavirus will affect the weddings industry. He also talked to about what people should do if they need to cancel their wedding during the Covid-19 outbreak. Gary also spoke to Good Housekeeping about what to do if an event you have already bought a ticket for is cancelled due to the virus.
And he was on BBC Radio Leicester (from 2:38:30). BBC Radio Essex (3:49:48) and BBC Radio Merseyside (1:26:28) discussing weddings and on BBC Radio Northampton (1:23:00) BBC Radio 4’s Moneybox (02:58) to talk travel and consumer rights during the coronavirus crisis.
Melinda Giles, a member of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee spoke to LBC (starts from 01:05) and answered listeners questions on their employment rights, legal rights when cancelling their weddings and holidays, and the strain on businesses in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Telegraph (£) reported that the number of people seeking to grant power of attorney and write new wills has risen by at least 30% in the face of fears over death rates in the coronavirus pandemic.
Ian Bond, chair of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee, said that his firm had seen a “huge spike” in the number of queries and requests, which were primarily from the elderly or vulnerable undergoing hospital or health treatment who wanted to “put their affairs in order”.
BBC’s Moral Maze discussed the impact of the crisis on the demand for wills – citing Ian’s comments to the Telegraph.
Today’s Wills and Probate cited Ian and his comment to the Telegraph about demand from people wishing to make wills being up 30%.
Melinda Giles spoke to BBC Radio Nottingham (from 2:07:56) , where she provided useful information about the importance of having a will, given the increase in new wills because of coronavirus.
The Gazette reported our calls for clarity from government on the status of ongoing purchases following comments made by Michael Gove this week. Also in the Solicitors Journal (£), Inside Conveyancing, Today’s Conveyancer, Property Industry Eye and Estate Agent Today. I said: “We are seeking further clarity from government and will monitor closely as the situation develops. We are hoping for official guidance to be published in the next few days.”
Sarah Dwight, a member of our conveyancing and land law committee, was also cited in an advice column for the FT (£).
The Daily Mail namechecked the Law Society in a column on how the property market is likely to react to 80% of people being unable to leave their homes, putting sales on hold.
Business continuity and compliance:
The Gazette looked at updated guidance from the Legal Aid Agency (LAA). I said: 'We continue to push for either firm action or a clear statement of intent on a number of outstanding issues - including a need to address concerns around the means test and the cashflow implications for firms.”
The Times (£) has looked at the impact of the current crisis on the business of law firms across the country, and makes reference to our online guidance.
Council member Paul Bennett appeared on BBC Radio Shropshire (from 2:37:16) to chat about coronavirus, business continuity and law firms.
The Solicitors Journal has a piece on the compliance challenges professionals face in this current situation and points out SRA and Law Society guidance to help them.
The Lawyer reported that the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society has written to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) urging it not to delay final exams for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) until the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
And in non-coronavirus news:
Legal Cheek and Practice Source cover our joint lawtech survey with Oxford University. The report found that while technology could boost productivity, only 41% of respondents were sufficiently trained to use new technology at work.
The German Federal Constitutional Court’s ruled last week that Germany’s participation in the Unified Patent Court (UPC) is void. Global Legal Post asked whether it is the end of the road for the court, or if it can be revived. I said: “There is a crucially important window of opportunity to make this investment before the UPC is off and running.”
Artificial Lawyer reported on a survey of a group of 353 anonymous respondents taken out of a random sample of 10,000 individuals selected by the Law Society of England & Wales across a very broad range of companies, which found that tech will boost productivity, but we’re just not using it. The survey was featured in the Law Society Gazette.
Legal Futures reported on our joint survey with Oxford University which shows many firms are not making the most of lawtech. Law Society chief executive Paul Tennant said: “This survey offers an important snapshot of lawtech adoption in England and Wales and highlights the training solicitors need to improve their expertise.”
In one of our columns for the Northern Echo, local solicitor Kayleigh Richardson, highlighted how widespread domestic abuse is in the UK and the need for legal aid in these cases.
Don’t forget you can read all Law Society press releases by clicking on this link. For live updates follow us on Twitter.
New probate forms
We had our usual probate review meeting with HMCTS in which they confirmed the launch of new standard grant of representation application forms for legal professionals. These will see the old-style Statements of Truth become redundant after a four-week introduction period for the new forms. The new forms will enable HMCTS to digitise the information and insert it directly into their systems.
Given the current situation with coronavirus, members are also encouraged to sign up to MyHMCTS to ensure better continuity of service: https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/news/stories/new-grant-of-representation-application-forms-for-legal-professionals/
Giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee on Tuesday (24 March), lord chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP referred to the Law Society’s work in response to the coronavirus pandemic three times. He stated: “Can I say, the Law Society, I’m so grateful for the support that they’ve given us through this very testing time. They’ve shown that professionals are prepared to step up to the plate and help deliver justice in a calm and measured way.”
On Wednesday 25 March, deputy vice president I. Stephanie Boyce appeared as a guest on the Legally Vocal podcast, hosted by Apperio, to discuss the in-house profession and the future legal environment.
On Thursday 26 March I attended a call with newly-appointed parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, Alex Chalk, around legal aid.
Our year in review
Every year we publish our business review, highlighting some of what we achieved for our members, the legal sector and the general public. Our review for 2018-19 is out now and our key facts and figures, as well as looking at how the profession has changed in the last ten years. We also look at what we see as they key issues the profession needs to respond to in the coming years.
It covers how we:
- influenced for impact as the voice of the profession
- kept our members up to date with the latest news, information and research
- supported practice excellence through support and advice, practice notes, toolkits and events
- were our members’ career companion, giving them the tools to develop their careers, expertise and businesses
- made operational improvements to be more effective and efficient
Keeping members up to date
We have a number of newsletters for members. Below is a list, along with links for signing up to them.
Law Society newsletter page
You can also register for the Gazette daily update here.
As always, please feel free to share this update with your constituents unless otherwise specified.
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