Law Society Advises On Cautious Return To Offices

The Law Society of England and Wales is urging law firms to remain cautious when entering ‘unchartered waters’ as the lockdown restrictions are lifted and legal businesses are free to work form their offices.

Simon Davis suggests all law firms adapt and embed new risk assessment protocols to ensure employees and clients are kept safe.

The implementation of an action plan was deemed important to help manage any risks and easily amend approaches in line with the constantly shifting situation.

The Law Society believe communication and collaboration will be increasingly important in the months ahead to ensure all stakeholders entering physical office space are aware of their role and responsibilities.

In the short term, firms will need to be adaptable in they way they complete legal services for clients. Adapting the physical space to comply with social distancing advice will be the first major hurdle as legal practitioners return to their office space in the days ahead.

Simon Davis, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, commented:

“Downing Street is clearly moving towards a gradual easing of restrictions in England requiring firms to conduct a risk assessment, create an action plan to manage those risks and follow practical steps on workforce management to help their staff and clients to be safe.

“This situation continues to present a number of dilemmas for employers and employees alike which will need careful consideration.

“When functions of the justice system begin to wind up again – such as jury trials potentially restarting next week – it is imperative that good hygiene and appropriate distancing are maintained.

“However, the extent of the roll-out will depend on the ability of each court to meet those requirements. Some courts i.e. those with newer, larger courtrooms – will find it easier than others. The priority must be to carefully balance access to justice with safety as the easing of restrictions are planned in the coming weeks.

“The KPMG report we commissioned earlier this year showed that in 2018 legal services supported an estimated 552,000 full time employees – 358,000 directly in the legal services sector; 150,000 indirectly in the legal services supply chain; 43,000 more supported through the spending of direct and indirect employees’ wages within the UK economy.

“It contributed nearly £60bn total Gross Value Added to the UK economy in 2018 while in 2017 legal services exports hit approximately £5bn.

“This, by any reckoning, is a serious contribution to UK PLC and we remain very concerned about the impact of this period on firms, on solicitors and on the public’s access to justice.

“By virtue of their work, solicitors are naturally risk managers and will certainly appreciate that as lockdown eases we will all have to be cautious and adaptive. Amid the tragedy we have all learned important lessons from the past few weeks and we need to take these into the next phase.

“I would urge all our members to be vigilant as government advice evolves.

“We also should be careful to make sure we keep our employees informed and work together so that the legal profession is agile in its ability to adapt, protecting each other and our clients, finding ways of working in these unchartered waters. For our part, the Law Society will be working tirelessly to ensure we support our members through yet another difficult time.”

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