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Brethertons Coronavirus Update 12/11/2020

How do the new lockdown regulations impact the provision of legal services?

The new national lockdown came into force in England at 12.01am on Thursday 5th November and will last until at least Wednesday 2nd December. The government has now published the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No 4) Regulations 2020.

In this article,  Alison McCormack, CEO of Brethertons Solicitors, explains how the public can access legal advice during the lockdown.

Are Brethertons remaining open? 

Most certainly. Law firms can remain open and our offices in Rugby and Bicester are manned and open. Our new “pop-up” office in Banbury opens on the 1st December. In line with secure guidelines, all our offices are COVID-19 compliant.

The government has stated that the guidance on the new national restrictions from 5th November, section 11, indicates that people can travel for a number of reasons, including to buy services from premises that are open.

Many of our lawyers fall within the definition of “key workers”– the definition of 'key workers’ includes:

  • 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 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

Is the property market closed?

Emphatically not. The property market remains open and our conveyancing teams are incredibly busy. The regulations allow people to leave home under part 6, for the purposes of conducting the following activities in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property:

  • visiting estate or letting agents, developer sales offices or show homes
  • viewing residential properties to look for a property to buy or to rent
  • preparing a residential property to move in
  • moving house
  • visiting a residential property to undertake any activities required for the rental or sale of that property

Are the Courts still open?

Yes. The courts will remain open unless otherwise stated by the government. We are fortunate to have created our own virtual court room within our offices, so our lawyers are continuing to represent customers remotely as and when the courts list their matters for hearing.

Can customers visit a lawyer’s office?

Yes, if the visit is to fulfil  a legal obligation – under part 6, clause 4 of the regulations, it's acceptable for a person to leave home "to fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court, or to participate in legal proceedings."

We can of course meet clients virtually and will, in the main (as we have since the pandemic started), continue to deliver legal services remotely.

The current regulations do not define what is considered a “legal proceeding”. The Law Society are seeking clarification from the government on this point and we will update our customers accordingly.

Are solicitors able to visit clients at home? 

Possibly. Sorry to sound vague on this point.

The regulations provide under clause 11.3.  an exception on gatherings when these are necessary to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, including relevant personal care. The act states that personal care includes any form of advice or guidance which “is given to a person who is in need of it by reason of age, illness or disability”.

The Law Society is seeking to clarify with the government if it's acceptable for solicitors to attend a vulnerable client's home, for example, to deal with a private client matter (such as a lasting power of attorney) and will update  our customers as soon as the situation is confirmed.

Conclusion

Whilst these are challenging and troubling times for us all, Brethertons are still open and can deliver advice and support to our customers.

We appreciate that there are many stressful situations facing us all. Hopefully, engaging with a law firm need not be one of them.

We hope that all our customers, staff and contacts stay safe.