Law firm offices can open to clients in second lockdown

Law firm offices can open to clients in second lockdown

During the second lockdown, the Government has confirmed that law firms can open up their doors to the public.

The Law Society recently met with officials from the government to lock in an agreement and clarify the understanding of the rules that law firm offices can stay open for the next 4 weeks of lockdown.

It has been interpreted that solicitors and staff should work from home where possible. However, if this is not possible, they can travel to their place of work and carry out their duties in their offices. Furthermore, solicitors must first and foremost see clients remotely, but again, if this is not possible, face-to-face meetings will be allowed.

The new lockdown, which is meant to end on the 2nd December, has caused confusion and ambiguity because of exceptions in the rules.

The general public are being permitted to leave their homes to carry any necessary legal obligations, which includes being present at court or partaking in legal proceedings.

There are ongoing discussions about what constitutes a ‘legal proceeding’, but it has been confirmed that people can travel to use services from offices that are open.

However, those private client solicitors who feel it necessary to visit a vulnerable client’s home, such as dealing with a lasting power of attorney, is seeking further clarification on whether this is permitted in the second lockdown.

The rules have stipulated that key workers outlined in the first lockdown will remain the same for the second lockdown. This includes barristers, solicitors, legal executives, paralegals and those working on ongoing court or tribunal hearings. Also, those acting for clients in relation to the execution of wills are classed as key workers too.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has confirmed that solicitors should refrain from carrying out identification checks and due diligence on clients face-to-face as it is not necessary, and where possible, solicitors should consider utilising email, telephone or virtual appointments to clarify someone’s identity.

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