Law Society of England and Wales President Simon Davis, today urged solicitors’ firms to exercise caution amid the diverging messages from the different governments in England and Wales in the latest detailed guidance on working safely during the pandemic.
“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.”
As jury trials in Cardiff Crown Court are due potentially restart next week, Davies said that ‘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 commissioned earlier this year by The Law Society, 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.
This 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.
Davies urged solicitors to be vigilant as government advice evolves, and added:
“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.”