COVID-19 News & Advocacy

 

Advance Care Directives

Posted 15 May 2020 

The Society has written to the Attorney-General at the request of its Country Practitioners’ Committee, asking for her to consider implementing changes around the order of signing of Advance Care Directives (ACDs) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Society noted its long standing concerns regarding the requirements around the order of signing are further exacerbated in the current COVID-19 environment. The Society expressed its serious concerns regarding the inherent and completely avoidable risk that the person making the ACD may lose adequate mental capacity between the date of giving instructions and the time the document is signed by substitute decision makers and returned for signing by the donor. The Society suggested that the order of signing should simply not be prescribed and that electronic signatures be accepted to facilitate the signing of ACDs in emergency situations during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Jury trials to recommence soon

Posted 8 May 2020

The District Court has advised that jury trials will commence in Adelaide from 1 August 2020 on a staged basis. The Mount Gambier Circuit in July will proceed as a normal circuit with jury trials. Country circuits thereafter will also proceed as normal circuits with jury trials. The Court will be seeking advice from SA Health with regards to re-introducing jury trials, and will ensure any social distancing or other health guidelines are followed. This may require two courtrooms to be set aside for each jury trial, which would impact the listing of trials. Read the full statement from the Courts Administration Authority


COVID-19 impact on family law highlights courts system's need for more resources

 Posted 4 May 2020

Law Society President Tim White and Family Law Committee Co-Chair Jane Miller spoke to the Advertiser about the impact of COVID-19 on family law matters and the inevitable increase in matters that will come before the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court, necessitating an increase in investment in the already under-resourced court to the courts system to manage the extra workload. Tim was also interviewed on ABC about the issue. 



RTWSA to recommence permanent impairment assessments

Posted 1 May 2020 

The Society is pleased to announce that RTWSA will be recommencing referring workers for permanent impairment assessments from Monday 4 May 2020. Workers who, for personal reasons, do not wish to proceed with an assessment of their permanent impairment at this time will suffer no adverse claim consequences. RTWSA has advised that it is its expectation that assessors will continue to ensure workers are appropriately screened before commencing any physical assessment. Read RTWSA's response to the Society | Read the Society’s letter to RTWSA

Witnessing affidavits during COVID-19

Updated 30 April 2020 

The Supreme Court and District Court issued a practice note on witnessing affidavits during the COVID-19 pandemic on 16 April 2020.  The SAET issued a Practice Direction on 28 April 2020 regarding the witnessing of affidavits during the COVID-19 pandemic. It clarifies the Tribunal's expectations in relation to the acceptance of unsworn affidavits and in doing so advises the Tribunal will adopt the Practice Note of the Supreme Court and District Court of 16 April 2020. 


Requirements regarding the witnessing of documents during COVID-19

Updated 30 April 2020

The Attorney-General (SA) has advised the Society (by letter of 29 April 2020) that regulations will not be made at this time that allow the electronic attestation or witnessing of documents, the decision being on the basis that documents can currently be witnessed in a safe and physically distant manner whilst still complying with the law as it is currently. The was in response to the Society’s letter written to the Attorney-General on 23 April 2020 asking that regulation be made under section 16 of the Emergency Response Act 2020 (SA) with respect to the electronic witnessing of documents. An article in InDaily on 30 April 2020 advises of the Attorney’s position and that taken by the Society.

The Society is consulting its specialist Committees as to detail of the specific issues practitioners are experiencing. The Society will continue to advocate for measures that are in the best interests of the community and the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic.



$1.8 million COVID 19 package to support practitioners

Posted 29 April 2020 

The Law Society is proud to announce a once-off $1.8 million rebate support package to help Members and insureds during the COVID-19 crisis.

The once-off package includes:
  • Membership discounts of 23-24% for most members and up to 85% for low fee earners, subject to renewal by 30 September (refer to below table for more details)
  • a 15% rebate on all CPD events for the 2020-21 financial year*
  • a $500 Administration Fee rebate for every insured practitioner
  • Members eligible for the 20% or 50% reduced PI contribution for Low Fee Earners will automatically receive the corresponding Low Fee Earner membership rate
  • Expansion of the eligibility criteria for the Non-practising Admitted member category to include members stood down or made redundant due to COVID-19
  • The continuation of a 10-month repayment plan on renewal fees

Click here for full details of the support package


Advocacy Notes newsletter out now!

Posted 28 April 2020  

The latest edition of Advocacy Notes summarises the key issues the Society has been working on to support and advocate on behalf of the profession with regards to delivering legal services during COVID-19 (and other issues). Read about the Society's push for audio-visual witnessing, its advocacy to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on personal injury claimants, and making recommendations as to the classification of the law as an essential service.  Read the April edition of Advocacy Notes

 

Update on temporary cessation of work injury assessments

Posted 24 April 2020 

Return to Work SA has responded to the Society’s
letter with regards to concerns about referrals for whole person impairment (WPI) assessments being temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.  RTWSA had advised that the assessments for physical injuries are likely to resume “in the next few weeks” and assessments for mental injury will resume shortly via remote technology. Read the Society’s letter to RTWSA | Read RTWSA’s response to the Society


Further advice on witnessing Statutory Declarations during COVID-19

Posted 24 April 2020 

The Attorney General of SA has provided further advice regarding recent regulations which expand the classes of persons who may take statutory declarations. clarifying that the regulations do not apply to affidavits or Enduring Powers of Attorney, nor do they amend the manner in with statutory declarations are to be taken. Read the advice from the Attorney General regarding Statutory Declarations. 

 

Delay in the commencement of the Uniform Court Civil Rules and CourtSA Civil

Posted 23 April 2020 

The Courts Administration Authority advised on 22 April 2020 that the commencement of the Uniform Court Civil Rules and the CourtSA Civil electronic management system has been delayed until 18 May 2020.   

The Rules and CourtSA Civil have been delayed due to problems experienced by the CAA’s specialist IT workforce due to COVID 19 restrictions.   The CAA’s media release is available here

The Society understands there will be a transitional period post 18 May 2020 during which documents can be emailed to the CAA.  Details will be advised, once published by the CAA.

The CourtSA portal contains a range of videos and information, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions. 


COVID-19 Regulations

Posted 20 April 2020

A number of Regulations pursuant to the
COVID-19 Emergency Response Act 2020 have been Gazetted.

Section 16 and Section 17 regulations

The COVID-19 Emergency Response (Section 16) Regulations 2020 regulations extend the classes of persons who may take statutory declarations.

The COVID-19 Emergency Response (Section 17) Regulations 2020 provide that, with regards to measures that permit meetings or transactions to be held remotely, that this does not  apply to the requirement that a person be physically present to witness the signing, execution, certification or stamping of a document or to take any oath, affirmation or declaration in relation to a document.

COVID-19 Emergency Response (Commercial Leases) Regulations 2020

These regulations provide relief for commercial tenancies impacted by COVID-19. Find out more about these regulations here.


Support for commercial tenancies 

Posted 20 April 2020 

Regulations have been passed to assist commercial tenancies affected by COVID-19. If a lessee has suffered financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, a lessor cannot take action on the grounds of a breach of the lease for a prescribed period.  For more information read “Essential Information for Lessees and Lessors dealing with COVID-19” on the Small Business Commissioner’s website.  View the COVID-19 Emergency Response (Commercial Leases) Regulations 2020.


Guide to use of Video-Link under the Evidence Convention

Posted 20 April 2020 

The Hague Conference of Private International Law has made its Guide to Good Practice on the Use of Video-Link under the Evidence Convention available free of charge.
Download the guide.



New COVID-19 laws include measures to continue legal services

Posted 9 April 2020 

The Society has been working actively to ensure the people can access legal services in the face of current and any further restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Government’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Bill 2020, which passed the Parliament on 8 April 2020, includes a number of measures which were sought by the Society in a letter to the Attorney General.

These measures:

  • provide regulation making powers to modify the requirements relating to documents including the preparation, signing, witnessing, attestation, certification, stamping etc;
  • allow for any legislative requirements that a meeting occur or that some transaction take place that requires 2 or more people to be physically present, to be taken to be satisfied if the meeting or transaction takes place remotely (i.e. via audio visual or other means of communication);
  • amend service of documents requirements to include additional methods such as electronic means; and
  • includes an ability to extend of statutory time limits/requirements where required due to COVID-19.

Now that these regulation making powers and other arrangements are in place, the Society will be working closely with the Attorney-General to ensure appropriate modifications can be made and relevant impediments addressed, to ensure that the profession can provide important services to the public to operate both safely and effectively throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amendments to the Legal Services Award 

Posted 9 April 2020 

The Fair Work Commission has confirmed that the Legal Services Award (among other Modern Awards) has been amended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More (Members Only)...


Magistrates Court new COVID-19 Listing Arrangements and hearing procedures from 6 April 2020

Posted 6 April 2020 


The Society has been working with the Magistrates Court with respect to measures to deal with COVID-19. New procedures and arrangements have been put in place as of 6 April 2020 across the various Magistrates Courts. 



Clerks – Private Sector Award determination

Posted 3 April 2020 
The Fair Work Commission made a determination on 28 March to vary the Clerks - Private Sector Award 2010 to provide to provide greater flexibility regarding employees’ classifications and duties, minimum engagement/pay for part-time and casual employees, span of hours changes while working at home, full-time and part-time employees' hours of work and the taking of annual leave.


Standard Property Documents - COVID 19 Annexures

Posted 2 April 2020

The Property Committee has prepared COVID 19 Annexures for each of the residential and non-residential Contracts of the Sale and Purchase of Land, which are available to those who subscribe to the Society’s suite of Standard Property Documents. Visit the Standard Property Documents page to subscribe and access the annexures.


Law Society releases COVID-19 practice management guide

Posted 31 March 2020

In recognition of the COVID-19 crisis the Ethics and Practice Unit of the Society has prepared a COVID 19 – Practice Management Information and Strategies guide which references State and Federal Government business initiatives particularly relevant to small to medium law practices, and provides advice on the observance  of certain regulatory and ethical matters in the current circumstances that will be relevant to all law practices. Please email any questions to ethicsandpractice@lawsocietysa.asn.au


Providing an essential service during a pandemic 

Posted 30 March 2020 

The Law Society has been in regular contact with Government representatives and heads of jurisdiction to ensure that the provision of legal services can be maintained and conducted in a safe manner amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Practice of law as an essential service

The Society has written to the Attorney-General to seek confirmation and guidance as to whether legal services will be considered an “essential service” in the event of further restrictions. The Society suggested that legal services would be required during an emergency period and that some processes that have typically involved face-to face interaction, such as verification of identity procedures, may need to be amended during an emergency period. The Society will inform Members of any response provided by the Attorney-General.

Strategies to mitigate COVID-19 impact on lawyers

The Society is seeking the views of its Special Interest Committees as to the impact of COVID-19 on legal practice and services. The Society will be raising these issues with the relevant heads of jurisdiction and the Attorney-General and will be providing suggested solutions and temporary measures (as informed by its Special Interest Committees) to ensure the profession can continue to provide legal services to the community.

Advocating for modified practices to maintain provision of legal services

The Society has sought to address a number of issues raised by Members in response to the COVID-19 emergency. These include but are not limited to, matters arising in the Magistrates Court and the increased use of technology to facilitate remote access/attendance and ensure that the justice system can continue to operate safely and effectively.

Health & safety in correctional facilities  

The Society is in regular contact with the Department of Corrections to seek updates as to prisoner health and measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in correctional facilities and beyond. The Society has written to the Department on a number of occasions on behalf of its Criminal Law Committee, including with suggestions as to how increased use of technology and telephone services can ensure practitioners are able to access clients safely. The Society has also written to the Minister for Correctional Services, asking him to consider the early release of low-risk prisoners in light of growing fears of a COVID-19 outbreak occurring in a correctional facility.