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Recommendations for Legal Practice in South Africa During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Mollica Maharaj

Managing Director, Rahman and Rahman Inc., Attorneys, South Africa

The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world in unprecedented ways.Businesses have suffered immensely. Every day journalists report that more and more businesses have been forced to retrench or close down for good. In fact, Moneyweb reports that the impact of COVID-19 on the economy could be worse than the effect of the 2008 economic crisis. President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged this in his latest address, but also reminded us that the number of lives lost would be far higher without the current stringent lockdown policies.

Legal practitioners feel the impact

Legal practitioners in South Africa have borne the brunt of the pandemic. In a nationwide survey of legal professionals conducted by Goldfields Attorneys Association in May, 58.2% of participants indicated they lost more than 60% of their income in April. In addition, access to legal services has been negatively impacted; the same survey revealed that 85.2% of attorneys and advocates reported that the lockdown regulations severely affected access to legal services by the public (85% of respondents in the survey said that access to legal services was negatively impacted).

How can legal practitioners respond?

Professionals across all sectors are required to work in an agile fashion and adopt a growth mind-set that will enable them to succeed during difficult times.These are a few steps that members of the legal community can take to mitigate long term risks:

Collaborate

It might seem counterintuitive to encourage collaboration during isolation, but for professionals, there is no better time to do so. Simple but effective strategies such as pooling of resources, sharing office workspace, and accommodating clients and colleagues with flexible working hours can ensure business continuity during tough times.