Business

Legal profession and private client care during Covid-19

There are is strict legalities in executing and the witnessing of wills
Jillian McCord

THE role of the legal profession is to provide clients with essential legal advice in all practice areas within the legal system. The legal system can be complex to navigate and even more so in the current challenging times.

Covid-19 is touching every community, every family, every person in some shape or form; client care matters now more than ever and remains at the heart of every interaction.

In addition to much-needed advice, client care is very much at the forefront of our working day, particularly relating to issues surrounding personal affairs that are both sensitive and delicate - for example, wills, enduring powers of attorney, and controllerships.

We have seen a significant increase in our private client work during the current crisis, particularly from those people who are most vulnerable and who have been self-isolating - alone and without being able to meet with family and friends for months now.

Following lockdown, the profession, where possible, accelerated an agile working approach to ensure clients' needs continued to be met as seamlessly as possible. As a profession, we have had to work together to innovate and find solutions to ensure legal matters can be progressed and essential services provided.

While the recent advice, issued across both jurisdictions of the Island of Ireland, is we are through the "peak", there is still uncharted territory ahead, and people continue to feel anxious and fearful of the future. Many people, including the young, have had more time to consider their circumstances and are now deciding the time is right to put their legal affairs in order.

Knowing such matters have been dealt with can bring much needed peace of mind in these troubling times. We are mindful of the challenges faced by many, and as part of the legal profession, we remain committed in continuing the provision of support to relieve that anxiety and fearfulness.

Every effort has been made to overcome many obstacles brought by Covid-19 as we continue to assist, advise and help clients.

An example is strict legalities in executing and witnessing of wills. Again, with the assistance of good weather and keeping within the guidelines of the government, we have been able to put the necessary safety measures in place to get the job done. We have been able to keep many operations going and hope, with the expected easing of lockdown, we will see many conveyancing transactions finally being completed.

There are significant areas of our legal system, including conveyancing, which could benefit from reform and lessons, will undoubtedly be learnt by the issues faced by legal professionals during this pandemic.

In such difficult times, we will continue to share advice, specific or general, but we are doing more as individuals, as firms, as partnerships and as an entire profession to take care of our clients. Client care and sensitively in dealing with personal affairs is always important, but now more than ever the personal touch (socially distanced of course) makes all the difference.

:: Jillian McCord (jillian.mccord@dwf.law) is manager, private client, at DWF Belfast

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