Since Covid-19 took hold, many kinds of firms have moved their services online. Those offering legal services are no different. They are changing the way they work to make sure people can still access them.
We’ve taken a look at some of the changing ways you can access legal services. Most aren’t totally new. But they have become more common during the pandemic.
Staying in touch
Firms that offer legal services are now more likely to use technology to stay in touch with clients than before the pandemic.
- Chatbots – these dialogue boxes often pop up on websites. A chatbot is a piece of computer software – not a person. It might be able to answer simple legal questions, route your question to the right place or arrange a call for you with a legal adviser. Before you give any details about yourself to a chatbot, make sure you know how it’s going to use them. Check its terms and conditions of use or those of the website.
- Video calls – your legal adviser might offer you a ‘face to face’ video call. Zoom, WhatsApp and MS Teams are well-known video-calling options. Before you accept an appointment, make sure you have access to an internet-enabled device and the right software.
New ways of doing things
Some of the rules about what we can and can’t do during the pandemic have now been made into law. The law has also changed to allow technology to help in new ways when you use legal services.
Proving who you are
When you ask a legal adviser to carry out work for you, by law they must check that you are who you claim to be. To make this easier, checks can now be conducted electronically and independently, without sending documents by post. Systems such as GOV.UK Verify can help people prove who they are.
Signing your name
You can now sign some types of document without having to print them or sign your name with a pen. Ways to do this include
- adding an image of your signature to an online copy of a document
- entering your name in the signature space of an online copy of a document
- providing a fingerprint or retina scan using the camera or reader of your phone or other internet-enabled device.
Your legal adviser will let you know which of these options is right for you.
Getting documents witnessed
If you are signing a will, it can now be witnessed in a video call instead of in person. The law will be updated to allow for this change to wills made since 31 January 2020. And it will likely also apply to wills that are made up until 31 January 2022.
To find out more, checkat GOV.UK.
Are you worried about using new technology? If so, it’s a good idea to talk to your legal adviser. They should be able to put your mind at rest or offer you other options.
Going to court
Courts are being run differently during the pandemic.
If you are going to court, the court papers will say if you have to go to the court in person for the hearing or can join a video conference call or telephone conference call instead.
Most courts are still open for face-to-face hearings. They make sure that everyone who goes to court can stay safe from Covid-19 by social distancing and other steps.
To find out more about how courts are working right now, check Coronavirus (COVID-19): courts and tribunals planning and preparation at GOV.UK.
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