Coronavirus update for the ACT legal profession

Friday, 1 May 2020

Coronavirus update for the ACT legal profession

Last update: Friday 1 May 2020, 8am.

The Society is monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and will update this page as necessary.

The offices of the Society are now closed to external visitors. Only staff will be admitted except by prior arrangement. To contact the Law Society, please phone us on 6274 0300 or email mail@actlawsociety.asn.au.

Members are encouraged to refer to the following resources:


ACT Law Society updates

Practising Certificate renewals and fees

The COVID-19 emergency and its associated restrictions have had wide-ranging effects on the legal profession. The ACT Law Society is aware of the impact on many legal practitioners and firms in our region, and we are seeking to support our members where we can.

To help our members weather the current crisis, the Council of the ACT Law Society has agreed to implement a number of measures in 2020/21, including offering practising certificate fee relief. We have ensured that some relief will be provided to all members, and especially to those members most affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. Membership renewal notices will be sent to members in mid May 2020. [read more]

Guidance Notes

Settlements Office

Given the current health situation, in order to allow the settlements room to keep functioning, the following requirements are to be adhered to by all users.

Following successful reductions in the number of attendees at Settlements and negotiations with regular users, the Law Society no longer considers it necessary to prohibit the use of the room for exchanges of contracts. However, it is imperative that we continue the restriction of the number in the room to 25 or less, and practitioners are requested to use agents where possible to continue to achieve this reduction. The fewer attendees produces the lower risk of infection, and the priority for the Society is the health of the attendees at the room.

Please do not attend Settlements if you, or anybody you are in close contact with, is experiencing even mild cold or flu symptoms.

Mediators

The ACT Law Society’s ADR Committee has compiled a list of mediators available in a range of areas.

Event cancellations

All Law Society events have been cancelled, including CPD seminars and social functions, until further notice. If you have bought tickets for a Law Society function, your ticket will be fully refunded.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, all our upcoming face-to-face sessions have been cancelled. As an alternative, we are offering a selection of online courses to help you complete your CPD requirements from the comfort of your own home. The aim of this series is to help practitioners work through the obstacles related to working remotely. Webinars will release weekly, and most will be available to watch at any time after the release date. 

The Society understands that some members may be unable to attend training in the lead-up to the 31 March 2020 CPD deadline. Any member in this position should apply for an extension of time to complete their CPD requirements. Extensions will be granted until 30 September 2020. As we are unable to offer face to face events during this time, we encourage members to complete online training and webinar options over the coming months. Please email extension forms to carissa.webster@actlawsociety.com.au.

Committee meetings

Committee meetings are currently proceeding at the discretion of the individual committees, and may be held by teleconference, postponed, or cancelled on a case-by-case basis. Committee members will be informed of any changes.

Room hire

No room hire bookings will be taken until further notice.

Legal advice services

The Legal Advice Bureau will not operate until further notice.

Appointments with the Pro Bono Clearing House will be conducted by phone.

National legal profession updates

The Law Council of Australia is maintaining a list of resources nationally. 


ACT Community Legal Centres

ACT Community Legal Centres are continuing to deliver essential legal assistance and other support to the most vulnerable members of the Canberra community during the current COVID-19 outbreak. All ACT Community Legal Services are currently delivering services by phone, video or online.


Courts updates

ACT Supreme Court and ACT Magistrates Court

The ACT Supreme Court and Magistrates Court have implemented special measures in response to the COVID-19 virus. This includes closing its counter and making changes to how applications are received, heard and when some matters are listed. Further information on these measures is available below.

ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have closed our ACAT counter. The level 4 entry to our premises is also closed. Unless you are advised otherwise cases that are already listed for a conference, hearing or mediation will continue and you need to organise to attend the tribunal by telephone or videolink for these listings. There will be listing delays for some new cases.

You can contact us by email at tribunal@act.gov.au or by phone on (02) 6207 1740. 

High Court of Australia

The High Court of Australia will not be sitting in Canberra or on circuit in the months of April, May and June. The question of future sittings will be reviewed in June. The Court will continue to deliver judgments and deal with special leave applications including hearings as necessary at individual registries and will hear any urgent matters that may arise by video link between registries and Canberra. Any enquiries should be directed to enquiries@hcourt.gov.au.

From Tuesday 24 March 2020, no face to face services will be provided at the counter. 

Federal Court of Australia

The Courts are prioritising urgent and critical cases as the impact of COVID-19 escalates. In order to protect our staff and all visitors to our buildings, we have decided to close our public facing counters and cease face-to face services from Tuesday 24 March 2020.

In urgent circumstances, face-to-face services may be provided after initial assessment via telephone. You can contact us on 1300 720 980.

If practitioners are involved in current proceedings before the Court that are impacted by COVID-19, they are encouraged to direct enquiries for assistance, such as necessary adjournments, variations to timetables or preparation for hearings, to Tuan Van Le, National Judicial Registrar, Phone (03) 8600 334.

Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia

The Courts have established a court list dedicated to dealing exclusively with urgent family law disputes that have arisen as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A streamlined filing process has been established, where cases that meet the criteria will be allocated a first Court date within 3 business days.

The Courts are prioritising urgent and critical cases as the impact of COVID-19 escalates. In order to protect our staff and all visitors to our buildings, we have decided to close our public facing counters and cease face-to face services from Tuesday 24 March 2020.

In urgent circumstances, face-to-face services may be provided after initial assessment via telephone. You can contact us on the following numbers:

  • Family law enquiries: 1300 352 000
  • General Federal Law enquiries: 1300 720 980

Assistance, including necessary adjournments, should be directed at first instance, to Michael Raine via michael.raine@familycourt.gov.au or (08) 8219 1641.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

The President has issued five special measures practice directions that set out how the AAT will operate while COVID-19 impacts our services. These are in effect from 29 April 2020 for the following divisions:

Webinars
Guidelines