Published on April 23, 2020 by lauraduckett

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Read on to find out how the legal industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic this week. 

A New COVID-19 Personal Hardship is Set up for Solicitors

Last Friday, The Solicitors Benevolent Association announced that it will soon start accepting applications for a fund designed to help solicitors who find themselves in severe financial difficulty following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The SBA outlines that solicitors will be able to apply for fund support for the following reasons.

  • Being placed on SSP due to self-isolation
  • If their employment status has been changed (and they are not supported by the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme)
  • If a person is self-employed, unable to practise and ineligible for Government help or can’t manage during the delay in the help getting to them

The fund requires solicitors to be or have been on the Roll of Solicitors. Moreover, as it is focused on those most in need during the crisis, it does have the condition that applicants must have less than £2,500 accessible savings in their household. It is also expected that applicants will have done as much as they can to help themselves via the various aids put in place by the government and other institutions such as mortgage payment holidays.

For more information and to apply in due course go here.

Education and Training Updates from the SRA

In an SRA board meeting held in March, the organisation discussed the following:

Accessibility issues of moving assessments online, agreeing that the priority was to deliver a solution that would work for the majority whilst also maintaining the high standards required of those who were seeking solicitor qualification.

Temporarily adjusting the LPC requirements to permit some assessments to be taken alternatively.

Whilst core LPC subjects require supervision, that “remote proctoring” assessments fell under this definition.

Permitting proctoring of the PSC as well as for the Higher Rights of Audience and Police Station Representatives Accreditation Scheme qualifications.

Universities are being advised that they are able to make their own decisions about assessing students alternatively on the Qualifying Law Degree and GDL. The SRA should be sent notification of these.
In addition, work continues on the Solicitors Qualifying Examination. The SRA works with the provider of the SQE Kaplan, to ensure progression but will continue to monitor the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind. The SRA also confirmed that it does not expect the COVID-19 outbreak to affect the timeline of the SQE.

To read a FAQ provided by the SRA specifically for education and training providers, click here.

The First UK law Firm Announces Changes to 2020 Training Contracts

Irwin Mitchell is the first law firm in the UK to delay the beginning of its training contracts for September offer holders until February 2021. A spokesperson from the firm told Legal Cheek that despite this change, future trainee recruitment would not “currently be affected” and that qualification into newly qualified roles was also not being delayed.

The Legal Ombudsman Promises to Use Discretion During the Crisis

This week The Law Society Gazette reported that the legal complaints handler will take a “flexible and common sense” approach to progressing investigations in the coming months due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Legal Ombudsman says it will be as “flexible as is reasonably possible” in recognising that a complaint initiated by someone may not be their priority at the moment. It also highlights an awareness of the impact the pandemic may be having on the staffing levels at legal service providers and the effect this may have on the progression of complaints.

Words: Alicia Gibson

Missed last week’s update? Read it here!

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