Advice to solicitors on handling clients in Covid-19


26 Mar
26Mar

Solicitors provide essential advice and related services on a whole range of legal matters not only to businesses, big and small, but also to individuals.

They do so mainly from their offices on high streets up and down the country and in all our larger towns and cities. 

Getting access to a solicitor and to the other law professionals (legal executives and paralegals) is now compromised. 

The Law Society has issued essential guidance on how solicitors should respond to the current rule to work from home wherever possible. 

The full advice is set out in detail on the Law Society's website:

Which Solicitors are key workers and able to attend their offices?

"The government has confirmed that key workers include those “essential to the running of the justice system”. These are:

  • 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

Only legal practitioners who work on the types of matters, cases and hearings listed above can be classified as key workers.

Some legal practitioners will intermittently fall into this category because they need to provide advice or attend a hearing relating to an urgent matter such as safeguarding of children or vulnerable adults or a public safety matter. For the limited time required to deliver this work, a legal practitioner will be a key worker.

The government's guidance makes clear that even if you are a key worker, if your child can be looked after at home, they should be. In the current climate schools are not open just for education, but as places of safety for the few children who cannot safely be looked after at home, because those who are caring for them are key workers doing essential work.

Solicitors will need to decide responsibly for themselves whether they fall within the categories outlined, within the spirit of being essential to the running of the justice system, in accordance with the overriding objective of keeping children at home wherever possible." (advice as at 24th March 2020)

What are a solicitor’s professional obligations if they are unable to provide the services required, due to Coronavirus?

"You should notify the client as soon as practical that due to coronavirus issues the service cannot be provided, and suggest that they try another solicitor (perhaps giving a list of three alternatives or a link to the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor service).

If the matter is due to complete shortly then seeking a deferral of completion is a sensible step, or asking another colleague to complete the deal.

You should ensure that your out of office response for emails has the latest information. It is important the client does not lose out because they think you are going to respond." (advice as at 24th March 2020)

What’s the guidance where work involves home visits, care home visits, hospice and hospital visits to clients who are often seriously ill, if not near to death?

"In general, we recommend following the government advice which is being regularly updated and at the time of writing includes good hygiene habits and social distancing.

If the client is in a risk category, it is preferable to find a way to deal with the matter remotely, for example by Skype.

If you judge that a physical visit is imperative, choose personnel who are not a risk to the client and who are not at high risk themselves. Both the client and the employee will need to agree to the meeting despite any risk.

If you cannot assist in the above circumstances, an urgent referral to another solicitor may be appropriate.? (advice as at 24th March 2020)

What steps can/should solicitors take to explain the risks and protect clients buying or selling property if there are delays on exchanges of contract or on completion caused by Coronavirus?

See the Law Society's extensive guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and residential conveyancing transactions

Solicitors seek urgent clarity over ongoing conveyancing work- The Law Society's Gazette

SRA staying 'pragmatic' over Coronavirus lockdown- The Law Society's Gazette

In its first public statement on the emergency, the regulator said it expects solicitors and firms to continue to meet high standards expected by the public, and to do everything they can to comply with rules.

But the SRA stressed it will ‘remain pragmatic’ and take into account mitigating circumstances if complaints about solicitors are made. It will focus on serious misconduct, while 'clearly distinguishing' between people who are trying to do the right thing and those who are not.

The SRAs Coronavirus FAQs

By the publications team at: Contracts-Direct.com

Legal Notice:

Publisher: Atkins-Shield Ltd: Company No. 11638521
Registered Office: 71-75, Shelton Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9JQ

Note: This publication does not necessarily deal with every important topic nor cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not designed to provide legal or other advice. The information contained in this document is intended to be for informational purposes and general interest only.

E&OE

Atkins-Shield Ltd © 2020

Comments
* The email will not be published on the website.