The Law Society is ready to help our members play their role in helping Britain’s economy and society recover from the pandemic. We have launched a new initiative, Return, Restart and Recovery – the three ‘Rs’ – promoting and supporting the role of the solicitors’ profession in the national recovery.
I am proud of the role solicitors have played to keep the wheels of justice turning through this extraordinarily challenging time. All across the country, in differing areas of law and through difficult circumstances, firms and practitioners have worked tirelessly for their clients and to ensure the highest standard of service.
As we enter this new phase of the response to coronavirus, with the government beginning to lift some restrictions, it is clear that technology will play a vital role in driving the post-coronavirus recovery across all sectors of the economy, including legal services.
Ahead of the expected statement from the chancellor, the Law Society is calling on the Treasury, the Department for Business and the Ministry of Justice to:
- Provide tax incentives for law firms, legal services providers and lawtech start-ups that develop and adopt lawtech, such as research and development tax credits and allowances (similar to capital allowances);
- Maintain year-on-year public investment in lawtech of at least £7.2m per year, which will ensure the global competitiveness of the sector;
- Improve the accessibility of legal data for lawtech firms, for example by establishing a legal data trust; and
- Extend the eligibility of the Future Fund to lawtech start-ups by relaxing the requirement of a minimum level of £250,000 of seed capital.
Looking ahead, the Law Society will host virtual ‘Community Days’ in key UK regions, to promote the local importance of solicitors in driving economic recovery and to support the role of high street firms as key to access to justice.
We are also offering a range of further support for members, particularly those who might be going through redundancy. We will be offering a support package that includes free access to our learning and development resources through the new Law Society Learning platform, and a mentoring scheme matching people going through redundancy with practitioners.
Our profession is absolutely integral to the rule of law, access to justice and the overall economy. It is the job of the Law Society in turn to help look after solicitors’ physical, mental and financial health.
Parts of the justice system were in crisis even before the pandemic started, and areas like criminal justice still face a very real risk of collapse. The legal aid practitioners who the government expects to enable courts to recover are entitled to expect in return that the government will give them the support they and the public so badly need; on the civil side, our work exposing the legal advice deserts is clear evidence that urgent intervention is needed.
Our new guide looks at employment law, and health and safety considerations employers will need to be aware of, as employees return to the office or continue to work from home. Our risk assessment template is designed to help firms deal with the current Covid-19 situation in the workplace. It is vital to support law firms in meeting the requirements set out in the government’s guidance and our practical framework.
We want to help members prepare as the government begins to lift restrictions and solicitors slowly return to the office in the coming weeks. Firms will need to be prepared and to have taken all necessary steps to ensure their offices are safe.
Firms need to begin to consult with staff now and complete the necessary risk assessments to ensure that everything is in place when they are able to return to the office.
Our return to the office toolkit focuses on providing practical steps members can take in line with government guidance, complete with everything from template risk assessments to downloadable materials to display in their offices.
Our new campaign is out to tackle all these areas, to ensure a return to work when it is safe to do so, as well as offering support to members around mental health and wellbeing.
Our enhanced services for law firms to support a return to the office also include helping small firms and sole practitioners to operate virtually through online community platforms for small firms, with the help of lawtech products and services.
The future is challenging, but we are working tirelessly so that solicitors have all the tools to help them to be prepared for the recovery phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, to get back safely into the workplace and to focus on the public in need.
Simon Davis, Law Society president