The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting nearly every industry around the world, and the legal sector is no exception.
States like New York, California, and Florida have imposed state-wide travel restrictions, postponing court hearings and forcing many attorneys in Tallahassee, Florida to work from home. Likewise, the pandemic has caused many firms to implement cost-cutting measures, even going as far as laying-off staff.
Court hearings postponed
COVID-19’s influence in the legal industry can be felt mostly in the courtroom. In England and Wales, longer criminal trials have been delayed due to the pandemic.
The Lord Chief Justice announced that criminal trials that are expected to last more than three days will be delayed until after the end of April.
Hearings would require the presence of many different participants including the judge, the jury, defendants, lawyers, and witnesses as well as staff. And with the virus lingering, a complete attendance is something that can be hard to achieve.
Litigation has been negatively impacted
According to Above the Law, litigation is one of the practice areas that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many litigators now have substantially less work due to so many court closures. Likewise, many court hearings have either been adjourned or now being held through remote means.
Also, some states have prohibited nonessential case filings. This shortage of filing capacity has reduced litigation work on all but the most important matters.
A surge of clients in wills and estates
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom for the legal industry.
In the UK, it was reported that many legal firms have received increased inquiries about wills. It was found that barely 40 percent of UK adults have a will in place, many retirement-age adults haven’t formally set out their legacies.
Sure, nobody wants to talk about their own demise but the pandemic has forced all of us to think deeply about end-of-life issues.
Pay cuts and staff lay-offs
Major law firms have been attempting to manage their expenses by implementing cost-cutting measures. These include salary cuts, reduction of benefits, even going as far as staff furloughs and lay-offs.
According to accounting firm Saffery Champness, nearly 80 percent of law firms in the UK are looking to cut partner compensation just to stay afloat.
In the US, more and more large and mid-sized law firms are being forced to do cost-cutting measures as well. According to Above the Law, a news website that reports on the US legal industry, more than 50 law firms across the country have resorted to cutting down salaries and furloughing.
Utilising technology to carry on business
With many states enforcing stay-at-home orders, many firms have been forced to let their staff work remotely.
As soon as the outbreak started, many firms have established remote working programs. These ensure their technology and IT systems continue to be operational, so lawyers remain responsive to clients when they need legal advice and support.
For example, many firms have turned to video conferencing software in conducting client meetings.
As with most industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the legal sector. It’s reshaped how law firms and courtrooms work and has impacted the jobs of many law professionals.
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