By Sarah McDermott, Private Client Paralegal
What a year 2020 was! I am sure none of us could have predicted the lockdowns and the effects of the pandemic.
Traditionally, solicitors’ appointments have always been face to face, and this is for a number of reasons, such as:
• We have to identify that the person we are meeting with is, in fact, who they say they are,
• In Private Client work, we have to complete mental capacity assessments in relation to Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney, and
• Generally, matters you need to instruct a solicitor for are easier to talk about in person.
This all changed in March 2020, when the Government announced the first national lockdown.
At Onions & Davies, once the first lockdown was announced, we had to put new procedures in place to enable our team to be able to work from home, but also to be able to continue to deliver the service our clients have been used to.
We set up new computer systems and telephone systems, to enable our team to be able to access the firm’s server, to continue to work on files that were already underway, and also to be able to speak to clients away from the office.
The main issue the whole legal sector had to overcome was still being able to see clients, either for new instructions, or for important stages within their matter, such as Court hearings, where there can be many people involved.
For Private Client work especially, it is important that we meet or at least speak to the person wishing to make their Will or Lasting Power of Attorney, as we have a duty to assess that they have the required mental capacity to give instructions, and also that they are not being pressured or influenced in any way.
This is where we turned to technology. We started to offer video link appointments on platforms such as Teams or Zoom. This way we could still meet face to face, albeit virtually, and still have a similar interaction, as if the meeting were at the office in the traditional way.
This gave the opportunity to assess capacity and to verify identification. Further and most importantly, we were still able to speak to clients who were in care or shielding, who became the most isolated over this time, and carry out matters on their behalf. We even managed virtual Will signings, using emergency laws introduced for this purpose.
So, here at Onions & Davies, even though we are opening our offices to clients again on the 12th April, in line with the Government’s relaxation of the rules, we will still continue to offer video link appointments for our clients who would prefer them. For an appointment either face to face or remotely, please call 01630 652405.