Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Covid 19 and the English Legal system (1)

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Media attention has inevitably and properly been focused on the impact of Covid 19 on our health and care systems and how they are coping with the virus. Away from the headlines (most of the time at any rate), the Legal System has also been subject to the disruptive consequences of the pandemic. No part of the legal system has been untouched. Just take a look at today’s Ministry of Justice website. The impact is obvious. Prisons, courts, tribunals, legal advice services – all are mentioned in separate news items listed on the website.

The professional press has also been describing how law firms, barristers chambers, and other legal advisers are all offering their services online, through emails, video conferencing, the phone. Homeworking has become the norm, rather than large numbers of people commuting to work in large office blocks.

I am sure that there are many who want the virus to be controlled so that ‘normal’ – i.e. pre-Covid 19 life – can be resumed. My question is: Should ‘normal’ (legal) life be resumed? Should we not see the arrival of Covid 19 as a tremendous opportunity to change the ways in which legal services are delivered? Might this not lead to significant improvements in the ways in which legal services of all kinds are delivered to the public?

I guess that many in the professions have from time to time asked themselves how they might change the ways in which they work. There have been numerous discussions and conferences about how IT or AI or other innovations will transform legal practice. But the dreams of the visionaries, such as Richard Susskind, often seem to get lost in practice. People are just too busy to make radical changes to their working routines.

Covid 19 has altered all that. It has forced many to practice from home; it has forced many court processes to be delivered online. It has enabled those who work in any different corners of the legal system to discover that much  if not all of their work can be done away from historic office/chambers settings. Of course, even before the arrival of Covid 19, experiments in new ways of working were taking place. But Covid 19 has created a momentum for change that I hope will ensure that the ‘old normal’ will not be resumed but will be replaced by a much more responsive and flexible ‘new normal’.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-justice

See also Richard Susskind, Online Courts and the Future of Justice. Details at  https://global.oup.com/academic/product/online-courts-and-the-future-of-justice-9780198838364?cc=gb&lang=en&

 

 

Written by lwtmp

May 15, 2020 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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