Challenges Faced by the Legal Community Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Alexander James B. Tan · March 7, 2021

Undoubtedly the most pervasive influence factor of the past year, COVID 19 has affected almost every aspect of life, including the practice of law. As it does to any industry during the pandemic, COVID 19 has presented a great challenge to overcome, particularly in the courtroom.  

On March 20, 2020, the Supreme Court issued Administrative Circular 32-2020, physically closing all courts nationwide. By March 23, the courts were reachable only through their hotlines or Facebook accounts, leaving only the most urgent of cases to be handled in court by the judge and a skeletal staff.  Many legal cases were postponed, resulting in some detainees facing extended stays in detention centers due to the postponement of their arraignments. 

For most lawyers, legal practice itself has become more challenging. With the early restrictions on physical distancing, as well as travel restrictions, the economic stability of many organizations nationwide have been negatively affected, including many law firms. With no clients walking in during enhanced community quarantine, more than one belt had to be tightened. New practitioners who had yet to develop their own web of clients had little way of acquiring new ones. Even those still studying law face uncertainty whether most law firms would be hiring within the next few years.

Despite what seems a bleak scenario, not all is lost. The Court has responded ably to the challenges presented. Administrative Circular No. 33 was issued on March 31 allowing for the online filing of complaint or information and the posting of bail. On April 27, Chief Justice Peralta issued Administrative Circular 37-2020 beginning the pilot testing of virtual hearings, particularly for those in detention. By June 1, many courts already resumed operations with strict observation of health and safety protocols. 

Despite these strides, it has become clear that for quite a while yet, the future of the legal profession – as with many others – can be found online. The long months of quarantine, and the continued long wait for a vaccine has produced a great demand for legal service that must be met, and met ably by legal professionals, through online service. 

There has never been a greater need for lawyers than now. For lawyers involved in estate planning, COVID-19 forces many potential clients to consider the risks of potential death or incapacitation. For labor lawyers, the downsizing and closure of many businesses has produced many clients in need of legal assistance to navigate the perils of unemployment and receiving their due from recalcitrant former employers. On the flip side of the coin, businesses also need lawyers to help devise new business strategies and tactics that take into account their legal obligations. 

COVID-19 has presented us with both a challenge and an opportunity. New ideas and innovations abound, as it ever does in times of adversity and crisis. For those ready and willing to take the chance, ALex stands ready to serve. 

About the Author:

James is a sophomore law student at the University of the Philippines College of Law. He took up BS Psychology at the Ateneo de Manila University and graduated cum laude last 2019. Currently, he is the Partnerships Executive and a member of the founding team of ALex Legal Solutions. He is a firm believer in constant self-improvement and is always on the lookout for new skills to develop. During his free time, James enjoys binge watching on Netflix and playing video games while trying to learn Spanish on the side.

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