Dear Members of the Profession,
The Law Society is taking immediate action to address operational matters for the profession in light of COVID-19. Please find attached a Memorandum from the Executive Director addressing the urgent action taken by Council.
Further steps have been taken to put the Society in a position to provide further guidance to the profession tomorrow to assist in the management of the risk of the spread of COVID-19 within firms and associated employment issues, along with guidance on the economic stimulus from Government.
I will continue to proactively lead and support the profession through these challenging times.
Date:16 March 2020
The response to Covid-19 is evolving rapidly at an international and national level. As an organisation we need to adapt to these changes.
The health and well-being of our members has been uppermost in our minds. We have wrestled with the question of the level of risk to our members, presenters, visitors and staff. A major difficulty is the level of uncertainty; for example, around how infectious a person is before demonstrating symptoms, or whether the virus can infect people via airborne transmission.
The Society has made a number of decisions which are explained below.
- Law Society meetings and seminars will now move away from face-to-face meetings to teleconferencing and videoconferencing from Monday, 16 March.
- For the 2019-20 CPD year only, the Society will not enforce the points cap on viewing and listening to audio/visual material as set out in Practice Guideline No.4.
- The 2020-21 PC renewal application form will accommodate practitioners who complete their CPD online because of COVID-19.
- An application for an extension of time or exemption from CPD requirements may be made by completing the appropriate form.
- Firms considering operating remotely need to consider rule 4 of the Rules of Practice 1994 and may require approval not to comply with the rule.
- Support is available through the LawCare program.
Meetings and Events
No Committee meetings will be held face-to-face, until further notice. The Society will shortly contact Chairs of Committees which have meetings scheduled within the next month to ask whether meetings can be postponed, cancelled or will be held via zoom or teleconference.
Member Social Events
All social events are being cancelled or postponed. Registrants will be contacted by email.
External room hire
All room hire bookings are to be cancelled and no bookings will be taken until after the end of April (this date subject to review). Those who have made a booking will be separately advised.
Business continuity in the event of closure of the Society
We are updating our business continuity plan to ensure that we can continue to offer member services in the event the Society’s office is required to temporarily shut down. If that is necessary it is presently anticipated that staff will work remotely from their home or another location. All business-critical functions will continue to operate as normal, and the security of your personal information will remain unchanged.
Communication from Courts
The Society will keep members informed of advices issued by various Courts.
Support remains available for all practitioners from the LawCare program. Our LawCare provider, Converge has moved to phase 2 of its pandemic action plan. This means appointments move away from face to face to phone or teleconferencing by skype or zoom from Monday, 16 March.
The Law Society has postponed all conferences. It is planned to deliver all seminars by webinar (Zoom link) only. For those unable to attend a webinar, recordings will be made available where possible. Further information will be issued to registrants in the near future.
The Society is aware that the impact of COVID-19 will affect many practitioners’ ability to satisfy their continuing professional development (CPD) obligations for the CPD year ending 31 March 2020.
Temporary waiver of the 5-point cap for audio/visual materials
In these special circumstances, the Society understands that practitioners may need to complete more than 5 of their CPD points through private study of audio/visual material.
This means that for the 2019-20 CPD year only, the Society will not enforce the points cap on viewing and listening to audio/visual material as set out in Practice Guideline No.4 (the CPD rules).
PC renewals and CPD compliance
From 1 May 2020, practitioners will be invited to submit their practising certificate (PC) renewal application for the 2020-21 year. As in previous years, the application includes a declaration of compliance with the CPD rules.
The 2020-21 PC renewal application form will accommodate practitioners who complete their CPD online because of COVID-19.
For this year only, practitioners will not be required to submit an application to have the 5-point audio/visual cap waived via a partial exemption.
Practitioners can tick the ‘Yes’ box in their declaration even if, due to the special circumstances arising from COVID-19, they have exceeded the 5 points cap. The PC renewal process will then proceed as normal.
All other CPD requirements
- All other CPD requirements must be complied with unless an exemption or extension is granted in advance.
- All other requirements under the CPD rules must be satisfied. This includes completing the required number of CPD points and the mandatory CPD units.
- Practitioners also have a responsibility to maintain accurate records of their engagement in CPD activities.
- Practitioners who are unable to comply with their CPD requirements for any reason should ideally seek an exemption or extension of time from the Law Society before 31 March.
Application for extension of time
An application for an extension of time or exemption from CPD requirements may be made by completing the appropriate form:
- For practitioners who anticipate not being able to meet their CPD requirements by 31 March 2020: Application for extension of time to comply with CPD requirements
- For practitioners who anticipate not being able to meet their CPD requirements due to extenuating circumstances or an absence from practice: Application for exemption from CPD requirements.
Please send any questions to email@example.com with the subject ‘CPD COVID-19’.
General information about CPD requirements can be accessed on the Law Society website here.
Rule 4 of the Rules of Practice 1994 – Obligation to be at place of practice
Rule 4 states that a practitioner must not carry on his or her practice at any place unless the practitioner or another practitioner is in charge of that place and spends substantial time at that place during normal business hours.
The Society understands that as part of contingency planning resulting from COVID-19 that firms may wish to carry on practice with all practitioners working remotely.
Rule 4 states that an application can be made for approval not to comply with the obligations to be in charge of and spend substantial time at the place of practice. The application is to be in writing and lodged with the Executive Director.
To ensure any application for approval not to comply with Rule 4(1) is dealt with as soon as possible Council has delegated the power to give approval to the Executive Director. The clear expectation of Council is that the Executive Director will deal with all applications for approval expeditiously.