Lawyers deemed essential — but LSO urges remote work ‘wherever feasible’

A directive from the Ontario government to close workplaces spared lawyers — but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are flocking back to the office

Lawyers deemed essential — but LSO urges remote work ‘wherever feasible’

On March 23, the Ontario government ordered at-risk workplaces to close down, except for “essential” businesses such as “grocery stores and pharmacies, telecommunications and IT infrastructure service providers, and businesses that support power generation, natural gas distribution and clean drinking water.”

Among the essential businesses spared from the shutdown were “professional services including lawyers and paralegals, engineers, accountants, translators” and “professional and social services that support the legal and justice system.”

The Law Society of Ontario responded to the government’s announcement by reiterating that while law offices are permitted to stay open, the “Law Society of Ontario, which successfully implemented a work at home plan for its own employees effective March 16, encourages all law offices and paralegal offices to do the same by operating remotely and virtually wherever feasible.”

“Since the onset of this unprecedented event, we have seen the legal community respond as leaders in innovative and creative ways by adapting their practices to ensure continued access to justice for clients,” said a joint statement by LSO Treasurer Malcolm Mercer and CEO Diana Miles. “We extend our gratitude to the public we serve and our licensees as we adapt, respond and support each other to ensure the administration of justice continues, and that the legal community supports broader efforts to facilitate social distancing and to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The Ontario government also said it was “encouraging businesses to explore opportunities to continue operations through work-from-home and innovative business models” as well as “protocols for physical distancing and regular hand-washing" for employees.

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