Updated: Aug 16, 2020
JOSHUA HARRIS | GUEST BLOGGER
The House of Commons Justice select committee spoke of the need to avoid a “collapse in legal service providers.”
Between the 16th March and the 30th June MP’s on the House of Commons Justice select committee published a report which highlighted the impact of Covid-19 has and will have on the legal sector in the UK and on high street law firms. For instance, The Law Centre Network’s report warned that up to 5,000 local law firms may go under.
The committee heard how impressively UK legal professionals have adapted to working from home with remote court hearings since the UK lockdown began earlier this year. However, they highlighted that legal professionals like newly qualified barristers and high street law firms are in financial danger. They specifically emphasised that there could be a sharp decline in the number of legal service providers if there is no proper financial support from the government- this comes as various business have announced job losses as the lockdown begins to ease.
The President of the Law Society, Simon Davis, during the select committee hearings, spoke of the precarious position high street law firms and the self- employed are in. The danger they are facing is caused by them not making enough profit to pay back government loans offered during the pandemic. Davis warns that if high-street law firms are forced to repay loans without enough work available for them it could lead to their closure. Consequently, leaving many without access to justice. However, Davis explained that due to the governments furlough scheme high-street firms avoided potential closure at the start of the pandemic.
The closure of high street law firms would not only affect business owners but also the individuals who use their services. This will disadvantage those who rely on cheaper services as they might find that they have no alternative. This in turn, will amplify the justice gap as following the cuts in legal aid, the only option for individuals who face financial hardship is high street law firms.
As life slowly returns to normal, the full impact of the pandemic on the legal sector is yet to be seen, although warnings from the select committee show just how perilous the situation is.
Joshua hopes to become a solicitor and has an interest in commercial awareness. He has been involved in his sixth form's debating society and in several internships. He hopes to begin his studies at the University of Warwick this year.
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