ABA establishes group to look at the post-COVID-19 response

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.

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Law Society of Ontario to allow online examinations

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.

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Burnett: “No going back” to pre-COVID-19 courts

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.

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More regulatory responses to COVID-19

Following on from last month’s newsletter, we’ve put together the following list to examine different regulator responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here it is interesting to note the development and changes, as regulators begin to get a grasp on the crisis and develop innovative responses to meet the changing environment. If you have any questions or best practice for the rest of the ICLR community, please do get in touch, and we will be happy to include any of these in the next newsletter.

Illinois has introduced executive order 2020-14, this satisfies notarial requirements that a person must “appear before” a notary public if a two-way audio-video connection is used. It also allows documents to be witnessed through the same technology.


The Law Society of New South Wales has decided to run it’s annual Law Careers Fair as an online event, rather than cancelling it. The event will use zoom to create virtual presentations, with individual video booths and company landing pages replacing exhibitor booths. More information about the event is available here. The Society has also decided to reduce its $410 membership fee to $10, for the 2020-2021 period, allowing members to redirect funds to priority areas during the crisis.


The Law Society of Hong Kong has announced that civil hearing will take place remotely, with all other non-essential court hearings currently adjourned.


The Legal Sector Affinity Group which is made up of all the legal supervisory authorities in the UK, including the Law Society, Bar Council, CILEx, and the Law Society of Scotland, has released an advisory note on preventing money laundering during the crisis. The note discussed the increased risk of money laundering at the current time and what checks can be put in place to mitigate this.


The Council for Licensed Conveyancers in England and Wales is to allow members to defer fee payments, following the near-complete standstill in the UK property market. Members will be given the option to defer paying their practice fee and compensation fund contributions for April, May and June, which can be paid off over the following 4-12 months.


The California State Bar Board of Trustees has written to the California Supreme Court offering options and recommendations for the June First-Year Law Students’ Exam and the July Bar Exam. Full letter available here. Whilst the State Bar of Califonia has put in place emergency measures waiving late payment fees, as well as extending payment deadlines for membership fees and compliance deadlines.


The Law Society of Ontario has cancelled the lawyer licensing examinations and the call to the bar ceremonies due to take place in June. The society has said that alternative summer/autumn examination dates are being explored and that the administrative aspect of the call to the bar process is being undertaken remotely, allowing students to progress with their careers, with a celebration planned later in the year.


The Law Society of Saskatchewan and the Law Society of Alberta have temporarily reduced the articling requirements to a minimum of 8 months, instead of the previous minimum of 12 months, preventing a backlog of articling students due to limits created by coronavirus. Full statements available here and here. The Law Society of Alberta has also introduced changes allowing articling students to work remotely, as well as giving instructions on the supervision students doing this.


The American Bar Association has created a “Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out of the 2020 Pandemic”, which launched a website on the 3rd of April to provide resources and information on the ongoing crisis and how this relates to the law. Statement available here, website available here. The ABA has also backed calls to adopt emergency rules that would allow recent and upcoming law school graduates who cannot take a bar exam because of the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in the limited practice of law, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, these individuals would have until the end of 2021 to practice without passing the bar exam. They hope this would limit the disruption to students careers, and help prevent the widening of the access to justice gap.  Full statement available here.

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