Updated 9 April 2020 (first published 31 March 2020)
The coronavirus situation is an enormously worrying time for everyone.
We are monitoring the situation closely and have provided some information below to help to support the legal community and members of the public.
We understand that many law firms and solicitors face uncertainty and difficult business conditions.
We will be looking at what we can do to help, while continuing to make sure the public are protected.
We will keep this page as up to date as possible as the situation develops.
The Law Society is providing advice and updates on coronavirus for the legal profession, including guidance, Q and A and links to useful resources.
We are liaising closely with the Law Society as the situation develops to help support the profession and help solicitors continue to work in their clients’ best interests.
We have published answers to address common regulatory queries. Read our help with common queries.
If you are a solicitor and cannot find an answer to your specific query, we recommend getting in touch with our Professional Ethics team.
If you have any questions about the impact of the virus outbreak on your matter, you should first contact your solicitor.
They should continue to work in your best interests, and tell you if any issues emerge that may affect the handling of your matter.
If you still have significant concerns about how your matter is being dealt with, for example you cannot get hold of your solicitor, then please read our information about what to do if you have a problem or you can contact us.
We expect solicitors and firms to continue to meet the high standards the public expect. This means they must do everything they reasonably can to comply with our rules, and follow our Principles. This includes serving the best interests of their clients and upholding the rule of law.
We expect firms to have appropriate contingency plans in place for disruption, but we recognise that these are exceptional circumstances and the coming months could present particularly challenging issues.
We must all remain pragmatic. We will take a proportionate approach: this includes our approach to enforcement. If we do receive complaints, we would take into account mitigating circumstances, as set out in our enforcement strategy. This includes focusing on serious misconduct, and clearly distinguishing between people who are trying to do the right thing, and those who are not.
We would recommend that if you do face compliance difficulties linked to the virus, you should clearly document the approach you have taken. If you are unsure about a specific scenario, please contact our Professional Ethics team.
We recognise that students, trainees and law firms are concerned about the impact on their training and assessments.
Our aim is to help by being as flexible as possible in this area, while still making sure solicitors who qualify have met the required standard.
There is already flexibility in many areas of our training rules. For instance, trainees must be ‘appropriately supervised’ but we would accept firms putting in place sensible arrangements to do this remotely. Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) students must be assessed, but we do not specify the form that the assessments must take.
However, there were other areas where we have recognised the current exceptional circumstances could have significant implications. So, having listened to feedback ,including from training providers, law firms and other groups, we are relaxing our current assessment requirements for all parts of the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
So we have decided to allow a particular form of remote assessment invigilation called proctoring, and to consider other proposed approaches on case by case basis. That should remove uncertainty and help the vast majority of people to complete their studies and pursue their careers. Many have training contracts due to start in September - our approach will enable law firms to continue as planned.
We have produced a Q&A to explain our approach to education and training, for areas such as the QLD, LPC, Professional Skills Course and period of recognised training, read more.
We have contingency plans in place, including homeworking arrangements, to make sure we can continue to provide a service to the public and the profession.
With increased home-working, we are moving towards digital services. If you cannot find the answer to your query on our website, we would encourage you to get in touch with us by email. This includes sending forms to us by email rather than post where possible.
In light of particular Government concerns around the pace at which the virus is spreading in London, we have made the decision to close our London office at Martin Lane. It will remain closed until Government advice changes. Our Birmingham office at The Cube is still open, but all our staff are homeworking, except in instances where maintenance services are needed onsite. We would please ask that you do not visit our offices during the outbreak.
The best way to contact us during the outbreak is by email.
We have also taken the decision to cancel all face-to-face events in the coming months. We are exploring online alternatives where possible.