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LIV says legal services must be declared “necessary service” under COVID-19 regime

LIV says legal services must be declared “necessary service” under COVID-19 regime

By Karin Derkley



The LIV has asked the Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy to make clear that legal services is a ‘necessary service’ under the COVID-19 regime to reduce concerns lawyers and their clients being fined for meeting.

At present legal services are not among the goods and services that people can leave their premises for under Clause 6(c) of the Staying at Home Directions.

"That means that while a person is allowed to leave their house to go to Bunnings or post a letter, it is not clear whether they could be fined for going to see their lawyer if they need to update their will or appoint a medical treatment decision-maker", LIV Sam Pandya said.

“And lawyers could be fined for having a gathering of more than two persons when they meet with clients to witness a will.”

This is even though NSW has designated “fulfilling a legal obligation, including attending a court or tribunal, satisfying bail requirements or participating in legal proceedings” as an exemption for gatherings of more than two persons under its COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement Order.

The LIV has written to the Victorian Attorney-General asking that legal services be declared a necessary service under the directions.

“The provision of legal services are essential, in particular those related to wills and powers of attorney and applications for probate or administration,” Mr Pandya says.

It is unclear under Victoria's directions whether lawyers who meet with clients to witness a will or power of attorney could face a fine for following the procedural requirements under the Wills Act 1997 which requires more than one adult witness to be present at the time the signature is made by the testator.

"This issue could be addressed by making it clear that legal services is a necessary service, which would mean that lawyers would not have to fear being fined if they follow the requirements," Mr Pandya said.

But the LIV emphasised that it would still be up to individual practitioners to decide whether it is safe for their wellbeing to meet with clients.

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