Return, Restart and Recovery From Covid-19

The Law Society of England and Wales has launched it’s three ‘Rs’ – Return, Restart and Recovery – campaign which it hopes will promote the role of those in the legal profession in the national move to get the UK moving again following the coronavirus pandemic.

The campaign will be in three stages:

  • Helping solicitors and firms return to their offices safely
  • Helping solicitors and firms to restart the economy
  • And empowering solicitors and firms to drive the recovery after coronavirus

Simon David, President of the Law Society, said:

“Solicitors are ready, willing and able to play their role in helping Britain’s economy and society to recover from this pandemic.

“All across the country solicitors have worked tirelessly for their clients to ensure the highest standard of service. I am proud of the role solicitors have played to keep the wheels of justice turning through this extraordinarily challenging time.

“As we enter this new phase of the response to coronavirus, with government beginning to lift some restrictions, it is clear that technology will play a vital role in driving the post-coronavirus recovery across all sectors of the economy, including legal services.

“We want to help our members prepare as the government begins to lift restrictions and solicitors slowly return to the office in the coming weeks.”

As part of this campaign, ahead of the expected statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Law Society is calling on the Government to empower law firms to create the new jobs that will provide the backbone of the sector in the long-term, by giving them the flexibility to spend apprenticeship levy on a range of support. This includes enabling firms to use the levy money for:

  • Lawtech seats and training in Lawtech skills;
  • Training in secondary specialisations which will enable people to re-train in other practice areas;
  • Training contracts to maintain the jobs pipeline for students about to complete the LPC;
  • Supporting other organisations (including in the third sector) by funding joint roles. This would enable firms to deliver pro-bono work in partnership with legal charities, helping to meet the likely rise in demand for such services and provide more efficient access to legal advice.

The Society is also asking the government to invest now in driving the adoption of technologies that will build the resilience of local economies and provide the bedrock of our future prosperity. This should include:

  • Providing tax incentives for law firms, legal services providers and Lawtech start-ups that develop and adopt Lawtech, such as research and development tax credits and allowances (similar to capital allowances).
  • Extending the eligibility of the Future Fund to Lawtech start-ups by relaxing the requirement of a minimum level of £250,000 of seed capital.
  • Embracing the data revolution by establishing a legal data trust to improve accessibility of data for those seeking to innovate in the legal services sector.
  • Invest in upskilling the judiciary to ensure the business and property courts are able to deal efficiently with intellectual property claims arising from Lawtech, and task the Intellectual Property Office with educating firms and Lawtech developers on how to ensure their Lawtech IP is protected.

Additionally, there has been a call for targeted tax incentives to support employment and stimulate activity in key domestic markets. Among these are:

  • An extension to the VAT and income tax deferral schemes to help firms with their cash flow. A longer repayment schedule would help to prevent a crunch point for many businesses early next year.
  • A temporary reduction in the VAT standard rate from 20% to boost consumer demand and support suppliers of standard rated goods and services across a wide range of sectors including the legal sector.
  • A temporary relief for employers’ National Insurance contributions to help incentivise staff retention and recruitment as the job retention scheme comes to an end.

Simon Davis added:

“We want to build resilience in our communities by making justice accessible to all.

“This can be achieved by ensuring employment tribunals are properly and sustainably funded in a way that protects the rights of workers and employers to access the tribunal – without reinstating issue fees, as well as committing to ending legal aid deserts. We need to ensure everyone in this country is able to access legal advice when they need it and make sure they are equipped to help rebuild their local communities after coronavirus.

“Properly funding the legal aid system and restarting the review of the legal aid means test to enable fairer and wider access for legal aid support, is also vital.

“Our new campaign is out to tackle all these areas and will also support individual solicitors who might be going through redundancy with a comprehensive support package made up of training and development.”

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