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Challenges and opportunities for the legal profession in the midst of COVID-19

Speech delivered virtually by Dr Jacoba Brasch QC, President, Law Council of Australia at the Hong Kong 2021 Opening of the Legal Year Presidents’ Roundtable.


"The COVID-19 pandemic marks an undeniable paradigm shift for the legal sector. At the same time, we know that demand for – and the importance of – accessible legal assistance is heightened in times of crisis. Equally, crisis proffers no excuse for any diminution in our role as defenders and promoters of the rule of law.

This paradigm shift presents countless challenges – but each of these challenges also provides opportunity to innovate, and to create a legal sector able to respond to the contemporary environment.

Few could have predicted the rapid digital transformation of Australia’s legal sector over the past twelve months – much of which was achieved in a matter of weeks between March and April.

The imperative to maintain the administration of justice during the COVID-19 pandemic compelled courts to scale up online registry services, expand virtual hearings and the use of online mediation. It also paved the way to secure critical funding to invest in court infrastructure and technologies – resources which were long overdue.

A critical element in adapting to this new normal was the swift passage of legislation permitting the electronic execution of documents – to enable affidavits to be sworn and witnessed without requiring clients and lawyers to meet face-to-face, and critically, to ensure wills could be made when access to hospitals and aged care homes was restricted.

Where appropriate, the Law Council of Australia sought to advocate for uniformity across the jurisdictions in recognising the validity of documents executed via electronic means."

You can read the full speech below.

 

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