Solicitors brief update February 2021
Covid-19 leads to delay in small claims trials
Small claims are taking almost three months longer to go to trial compared with a year ago due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is according to figures from the Ministry of Justice that revealed it took an average of
48.8 weeks between a small claim being issued and going to trial in Q3 2020, which is 10.7 weeks longer than in Q3 2019. This is mainly because the pandemic has intensified the challenges already facing the civil justice system, such as outdated IT systems and an increase in permanent court closures since 2010. Overall, 11,000 trials took place in Q3 2020, down 37% compared with the same period in 2019. Read more about the figures at: http://bit.ly/38ngTPA
Funding for free legal aid during Covid-19
A fund set up to ensure local communities have access to free legal aid during the Covid-19 pandemic has awarded more than
£11.5 million to free legal advice agencies across the UK. The Community Justice Fund was set up by a range of legal and advice organisations to ensure the free legal advice sector remains sustainable and able to respond to a significant increase in demand from local communities. Grants were awarded to 178 agencies between May and September 2020, including law centres, charities, independent agencies and local Citizens Advice teams. A further round of funding is planned in 2021. Read more about the fund at: http://bit.ly/2XkMkDL
Cybercriminals target law firms during lockdown
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has warned the legal industry that it is a growing target for cybercriminals. Overall, law firms reported that almost £2.5 million was stolen by cybercriminals in the first half of 2020, up more than 300% compared with the same period in 2019. The number of phishing scams targeting lawyers also increased by 300% in the first two months of the national lockdown. According to the SRA, the rise in cyberattacks is due to staff working from home on less secure devices and being unable to keep information confidential without access to dedicated office space. Read more about the rise in cybercrime at: http://bit.ly/38k7oAE
Law firms urged to prepare for negative interest rates
Industry experts have urged law firms to prepare for the potential introduction of negative interest rates. In particular, firms have been encouraged to update their retainers so they are able to charge clients for holding their money in the event of negative interest rates, as banks may choose to pass the cost of holding money on to their customers. Currently, law firms often hold their clients’ money and pay them a fair amount of interest. Industry experts have suggested law firms may adopt new policies and retainers covering client money that allows them to share the cost with clients, and that more firms may become reluctant to hold client money in future. Read more about the impact of negative interest rates at: http://bit.ly/3sc9Dhw
Consumers’ legal needs remain unmet
A report from the Legal Services Board has indicated that consumers’ basic legal needs are still not being met, despite significant improvements in the legal advice market over the last ten years.
Around 3.6 million consumers in England and Wales deal with a legal issue without representation or aid every year, while half of small businesses handle their legal issues alone. The report has also revealed that consumers struggle to access the best deal, as only 30% shop around before choosing a law firm and just 2% use a comparison website. This is despite client satisfaction, innovation and choice in the legal advice market increasing over the last decade. Read more about the report at: http://bit.ly/3bibsDE
Consumers turn to ‘DIY wills’ during lockdown
Research has revealed that demand for ‘DIY wills’ increased significantly before the introduction of the lockdown in England in November 2020. Overall, the number of internet searches for ‘DIY will’ increased by over 1,500% in the week ending 7 November 2020, while searches for ‘make a free online will’, ‘free will template’ and ‘online will’ also increased significantly. The rise in consumers turning to DIY wills has been driven by capacity challenges in the legal sector during Covid-19. Almost three quarters of lawyers said lockdown had impacted their work, such as delays obtaining a grant of probate to process wills. Contact us here. Read more about the research at: http://bit.ly/35ie14N.