In light of the ongoing uncertainty and the potential for change in how court hearings may be undertaken in the future, the Law Society of Hong Kong has lobbied for assistance to be provided to practitioners who may not have access to the technological tools required to conduct remote hearings or transactions.
On 8 April, the Government announced the proposed establishment of a LAWTECH Fund (“LTF”). On 18 April, the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council approved reserving HK$35 million for the LTF to assist law firms and barristers’ chambers with five or fewer practising lawyers to procure or upgrade their information technology systems and arrange relevant lawtech training for their staff.
See the full information on the fund.
Read more about the webinars.
The International Bar Association (IBA) has launched a global survey to look at the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on members’ interests.
The survey will collect information on:
- the impact of Covid-19 on bar associations’ and law societies’ day-to-day operations, finances and staff;
- the impact measures taken to tackle the virus have had on local justice systems, court proceedings, key work undertaken by lawyers and legal representation for prisoners; and
- members’ COVID-19-related activity in the wider community, including access to justice initiatives, undertaken, and pro bono work.
IBA BIC Chair Péter Köves and Vice Chair Kimitoshi Yabuki have said that the survey will provide: “a snapshot of how Covid-19 has affected our members, including the impact on their operations, finances and administration of justice in their jurisdictions more broadly. This information will in turn allow us to coordinate our longer-term responses to the crisis more effectively and better understand the help you need both now and in the future.”
More details on the IBA survey.
Access and complete the IBA survey.
The Law Society of New South Wales has launched an online mentoring program for over 650 high school students across the state in the wake of ongoing social distancing requirements. The Future Lawyers programme is running over 6 weeks with different topics and lectures being given to students on topics such as an Introduction to Australian Legal Systems, Advocacy, Law Reform, Policy and Ethics, as well as a mock trial. The classes are delivered by practising solicitors, giving students a chance to interact with those in practice gaining first-hand knowledge about the sector.
President of the Law Society of NSW, Richard Harvey, said: “The Future Lawyers Programme provides the year 10 and 11 students with an opportunity to learn from experienced and knowledgeable solicitors within the comfort of their own home. When it became clear that Law Society’s face-to-face Mock Law Programmes would be impacted by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions we moved quickly to create a new online format for high school students. During these uncertain times, it is important to ensure we adapt to our current environment and create new opportunities for students considering a career in the law.”
See the full details of the programme.
On the 12th of June the Washington Supreme Court issued an order allowing graduates, currently registered to take the July or September UBE in Washington, with a J.D. from an ABA accredited law school, to be admitted to the Washington State Bar Association and practice law in the state without taking the bar exam.
The court has said that the order is in recognition of “the exponential impact of the crisis caused by the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor and the resulting unrest and social action and activism that have affected this set of graduates and applicants, particularly those of color, on top of the already stressful conditions caused by the pandemic and its fallout.”
The two decisions made by policymakers in Kenya’s because of COVID-19 were timely but were bound to happen. they are direct economic benefits for reducing the prison population and use of technology in courts. If the Prison population is reduced at least by 10%, the prison population will reduce by 22,372 prisoners. Using the GDP Per Capita as of 2018, we estimate that income gained would be equivalent to Ksh 4.3 billion whereas a 30% prison population reduction would be 67,115 prisoners and equivalent to Ksh 12.9 billion. The mechanism of technology must allow for more accountability.
Kemboi, Leo Kipkogei, Two COVID-19 Lessons that Were Long Overdue to Kenya’s Justice Sector (June 12, 2020).
Available from the SSRN site.
The Bar Standards Board has announced on the 12th May 2020, that the Bar Professional Training Course and Bar Transfer Test assessments, that were delayed from April to August, will be carried out online with the assistance of Pearson’s OnVUE secure global online proctoring solution, which will allow for remote invigilation. Allowing the exams to take place within this timeframe will then allow for students with pupillage offers to take these up in the Autumn, rather than causing further delays.
The BSB has said that the “OnVUE system uses a combination of artificial intelligence and live monitoring to ensure the exam is robustly guarded, deploying sophisticated security features such as face-matching technology, ID verification, session monitoring, browser lockdown and recordings.” However, some criticism has come about suggesting that the system may prejudice students with young children, as the system automatically ends the test if another person is detected in the presence of the examinee.
BSB director-general Mark Neale said: “Since the current health emergency began… students and transferring qualified lawyers have had to face considerable uncertainty, which we very much regret, and I am delighted that we can now deliver centralised assessments remotely in August with Pearson VUE’s state-of-the-art online proctoring system.”
For more information see the full article on the BSB site.
Ana Maria Martinez, the head of the Georgia Latino Law Foundation, is organising a virtual judicial internship program for second-year law students who have had their summer associate internships cancelled.
The virtual internships with Georgia judges are open to all second-year students, at the state’s ABA-accredited law schools; and the deadline to apply is May 15. The program will last for five weeks and is unpaid, but will give students the experience of working in a judicial office.
Martinez, who is a staff attorney for DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez said: “It gives law students opportunities to have a substantive summer and feel like their hard work wasn’t wasted this year. It’s a way to expose them to new connections, how the court system works and perhaps a new mentor.”
Law students will be asked to commit to a minimum of 20 hours per week, which will be flexibly arranged around judges’ and attorneys’ schedules. Students will meet with judges or attorneys twice a week via Zoom.
See the full article on Law.com.
On the 13th May 2020, the American Bar Association announced the formation of the Coordinating Group on Practice Forward, with the aim of providing insight on the emerging challenges and opportunities confronting the legal profession and the justice system arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The coordination group will disseminate ABA resources as well as organise seminars, publications and other resources to coordinate ABA members and the profession, and to help to identify innovations and new ways of providing legal services that will arise following the COVID-19 crisis.
ABA President Judy Perry Martinez has said: “The American Bar Association is the preeminent body in the country positioned to exercise its convening power and provide the kind of thought leadership that the legal profession needs now. Adjusting to the new legal realities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a major focus for the ABA moving forward. That is why President-elect Trish Refo and I are working together to help the legal profession rethink what may or may not be essential to sustaining lawyer-client relationships, maintaining quality, ethics and competency, and assuring public protection in both the civil and criminal justice arenas.”
Ms Refo has said: “We are going to leverage the power of the entire ABA to address all of the changes to the practice of law that will arise out of this extended period of remote working. Our work will help lawyers in all practice settings to better serve their clients.”
For more information see the full article on the ABA site.
The Law Society of Ontario has announced that they will allow their June Barrister and Solicitor exams, and their July Paralegal exams to take place online in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
CEO Diana Miles has said: “The Law Society is confident that the new online delivery model will continue to ensure entry-level competence which is in the public interest. This will also provide candidates with an opportunity to fulfil the requirements of the licensing process during this unprecedented crisis.”
For more information see the full article on the Law Society of Ontario site.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, has said in a House of Lords constitution committee that there would be no going back to pre-COVID-19 use of technology in courts. He also added that if the crisis goes on it may be worth considering lowering the number of jurors to 7.
In his answer to a question from Lord Pannick as to whether the way lawyers worked would fundamentally change, Lord Burnett said he suspected that it would. He also suggested that Professor Richard Susskind was right to suggest that the crisis represented a turning point in legal practice.
Susskind himself has recently worked with the Society for Computers and Law (SCL), the UK LawTech Delivery Panel, and Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service to launch Remote Courts Worldwide – which has suggested that over 40 countries worldwide are looking at the prospect of remote courts.
More details on Lord Burnetts comments at Legal Futures, and also see the New Zealand Law Society’s view on some of the first virtual trials coming out of the UK.