COVID-19

Impacts of the Coronavirus COVID-19 on Legal Professionals

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the legal, economic and social order. In today’s highly uncertain situation and rapidly changing environment, legal professionals like other businesses and industries are facing new challenges in their practice. The lawyers will experience a transformation of their practice and management of their law firms. Balancing between lawyers’ professional conduct responsibilities and clients’ relationships during the global pandemic might not always be easy to be made. For these reasons, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, legal professionals should take some initiatives and implement some strategies in running their business in the context of the ongoing situation.

The measures which are taken to fight COVID-19 also have a significant impact on legal professions. The professional and civil responsibility of lawyers can be engaged if they do not comply with the code of conduct, explicitly in an emergency.

The impacts of the COVID-19 on the legal businesses and industries are numerous, including closures of law firms, the slowdown in services, absence of clients, cancellation of appointments and agreements by clients, decrease in the available workforce due to illness or isolation and difficulty to holding specific meetings and services.

Facts: Disruption of legal business and industry

According to Clio’s report, legal professionals have been significantly affected by social restrictions and that many firms are seeing reduced client demand. Based on this source, the majority of legal professionals surveyed report experiencing significant disruption to their business since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. It is likely since consumers say they are more likely to delay seeking legal help if they were to experience a problem. Also, 77% of legal professionals surveyed say they have experienced many changes to the day-to-day operations of their law practice. Besides, 67% of legal professionals surveyed are much more worried about the success of their law business, and 57% are worried about making a living over the next few months. In comparison, 46% of clients are anxious about making a living over the next few months. According to this report, 56% of legal professionals surveyed have seen a significant decrease in the number of people reaching out to their law practice for legal services, and 53% report being significantly less busy at work. 49% of consumers say that if they were to experience a legal issue in the next two months, they would very likely put it off until circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic go back to normal.

Increasing potential claims in the context of the coronavirus

One of the impacts of the ongoing situation is emerging new claims arising from disputes related to the speared of the virus. In this perspective, the new claims may apply in some practice areas and sectors of law. It could be an opportunity for lawyers to launch a new business based on the claims arising from this environment.

The current situation reflects the increasing demand for justice that lawyers should have the policy to assist their clients in resolving the claims arising from coronavirus. Among other disputes, the law firms will be in high demand to assist businesses in solving their new disputes which have caused by COVID-19, such as breach of fiduciary duties, breach of shareholders or partnership’s agreement, breach of contracts and dispute related to the relationship between creditors and debtors. Business owners are expecting lawyers to assist them in protecting their business legally.

More lawsuits and disputes arising out of employment relationships

The employer‑employee relationship, unemployment and re-enter the workforce are new issues arising from after lockdown. Such clients who have been laid off or fired require immediate assistance to obtain their rights and profits. Legal professionals should update their skills and competencies that are essential for assisting their clients.

Increasing claims of domestic violence

Another impact of COVID-19 is increasing domestic violence. Limited access to the legal profession, the closure of the courts, the limitation of services for victims and shelters are the main issues in gender-based violence against women and domestic violence in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation requires increasing advocacy and access to justice and legal professional. The vulnerable populations such as immigrants, specifically undocumented immigrants, need in priority to have access to justice and legal professionals during this crisis.

Rising needs for communication and information

Lawyers keep their clients reasonably informed about significant development related to the representation in this situation. The lawyers must explain the ongoing situation, deadlines and any decision or circumstances which affect their clients’ rights and liabilities. In most jurisdictions, lawyers require to reasonably consult with the client about the means to be used to accomplish the client’s objectives, especially in an emergency. In some situations, depending on both the importance of the action under consideration and the feasibility of consulting with the client, this duty will require a consultation before taking action.

Digitalization of legal practice and working remotely  

Social distancing is becoming part of our social culture. The COVID-19 has created an environment of virtual workforce and distance practicing. The courts and law firms’ closures or limited access lead to the recognition of new technology in legal professionals.

The modification of the conditions for carrying out legal activities due to the coronavirus requires developing or acquiring new skills and digital technology to increase productivity. This situation leads to accepting the new technology in the legal professional practices. Lawyers should be prepared to participate in judicial hearings via teleconferencing or videoconferencing and other digital technologies and tools for conducting such operations.

Creating lower-legal fees service options for potential clients

One of the solutions to keep moving the lawyers-clients relationship in the ongoing situation is to create lower-cost options for potential clients. The current economic crisis leads to the limitation of expenses from the potential client that has fallen short for spending money on legal services.

Professional liability insurance clause and the related insurance policy

Several professional liability insurances include clauses to cover revenue and remuneration of lawyers in the event of a business interruption. However, it is essential to consult the insurance policy purchased to determine if it could result in coverage. Based on this kind of insurance policy, the legal business interruption insurance could be a response with coverage for the income losses of lawyers and law firms.

In conclusion, the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 is challenging many businesses and industries. It is crucial that lawyers continually tray to anticipate, manage and adopt new measures to the appropriateness of their strategy. The legal profession needs to develop a new perspective based on the ongoing situation. The legal professional’s response to this crisis requires taking appropriate measures for reducing harmful effects on their businesses. It obliges lawyers to take measures to protect their business operations and to provide flexible, appropriate and affordable legal services to their clients.

About Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi

Dr. Abbas Poorhashemi
Dr. Poorhashemi is the President of the Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise (CIFILE). He was also an Assistant Professor and faculty member at the University of Science and Research (IAU) since 2006. He taught international law, international criminal law, international environmental law, international treaties, and settlement of international disputes to J.D. and/or international LL.M. students. He has been a supervisor, Director and co-director of more than 150 dissertations and thesis of international law. Furthermore, he has practiced law as an international lawyer and legal adviser in many countries. As a lawyer (barrister and solicitor) and legal adviser, he represented his clients on family, civil, criminal and international cases. He is also providing legal expert opinion on foreign and International law in many countries.

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