The global coronavirus outbreak has placed enormous pressure on all of us, bringing with it unprecedented challenges on both a personal and professional level. 

The legal profession, similarly to other sectors and industries, responded rapidly to the Covid-19 outbreak. While solicitors’ office doors may have closed at the start of the lockdown, many of us made a swift transition to remote working, opening our laptops to ensure the continued delivery of much needed legal advice and services for our clients and employers during this challenging and unsettling time.

The connectivity offered by modern technology has meant many of us are now connecting with our colleagues and clients while scattered across the country – often juggling our domestic lives and caring responsibilities with professional duties each day.

Solicitors have been working hard to meet the new needs of their clients. Many are relied upon to provide briefings on legal matters related to the pandemic, ensuring that clients can remain informed and helping them deal with the challenges that have arisen. And of course, they have had to assess how best to respond to the impact of the crisis on their own businesses.

HeraldScotland:

At the Law Society, we have been undertaking a range of activities to help solicitors protect their businesses, ensuring the Scottish public and business sectors can continue to access the legal advice and services they rely on. We have introduced new guidance so solicitors can witness the signing of documents such as wills and power of attorney by video link in certain cases, and our members have been able to take advantage of using their Smartcard’s secure electronic signature to replace the traditional ‘wet’ ink signature.

Such an enormous shift, not just in working practices, but also the economic hit that the Covid-19 outbreak threatens, has placed enormous pressure on the legal and justice sectors. Huge efforts are being made across the profession to overcome the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and find solutions to help ensure we can continue to have a fair and effective justice system.

A number of new procedures have been introduced, such as written guilty pleas, civil cases are being heard remotely and virtual summary (non-jury) trials have been conducted recently. The working group led by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, has also brought forward innovative proposals to allow jury trials to restart in July, which will allow juries to participate in a safe and socially distanced manner.

Technology has had a key role to play in what has been a rapid adaptation, and some of these most recent changes may well become a permanent feature of our justice system and our working lives.

It is also important to recognise the legal profession’s willingness, hard work and collegiate approach in reforming how we work within such short timescale. Three months ago it would have been unimaginable that so many of us would be managing our businesses or be conducting a trial while not physically in a court room, and yet this is now a reality.

HeraldScotland:

The legal profession has demonstrated adaptability and capability. We have learned much about what can be achieved under pressure, lessons which should not be lost when we consider returning to the workplace.

Public health continues to be at the forefront of decision-making at this time. Our efforts remain focused on ensuring that solicitors, colleagues and clients can be protected while we continue to offer support to our members throughout this extremely challenging time. It’s certain that, as we gradually emerge from lockdown, there will be no immediate return to the world we knew before the Covid-19 outbreak, however the legal profession will continue to provide advice and support during this period of transition and beyond.

For more information please visit www.lawscot.org.uk

This article appeared in Business HQ Magazine, June 2020