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Hayes Connor sees no reduction in new client enquiries

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Since the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, businesses of all types and sizes are having to adapt to survive. And this includes the legal sector. Justice hasn't stopped, and cases are still progressing, but there is no doubt that coronavirus is having an impact on the operation of court systems.

For now, we are seeing telephone hearings and evidence by video link increasing, and, virtual court hearings using the latest tech are being rolled out across the UK. Furthermore, there are already discussions about how virtual courts could become a permanent feature of the justice system. The times they are a-changing.

What is also becoming apparent as the situation continues, is that some sectors of the legal world are experiencing severe challenges. For example, earlier this week, NAHL - the company that owns National Accident Helpline - announced that it has had to furlough a third of its staff due to a fall in personal injury enquiries. Directors and management have also taken wage cuts in response to the crisis.

And, when you think about it, it makes sense. There are fewer people at work, fewer people on the streets, and fewer people on the roads. So, it follows that there will be fewer accidents and resulting claims. How the personal injury market will fare post-COVID-19 is still to be seen, but, as with the conveyancing sector, for now at least, the need for legal services has dropped significantly.

Data breach law is bucking the trend

Not all areas of the law are struggling at the moment. Indeed, with more people operating online than ever before, our MD and data protection expert Kingsley Hayes believes that there could be an increase in data breaches during the coronavirus pandemic. Primarily, he has warned that personal information is at risk in four different ways.

  • An increase in coronavirus apps. As the UK continues under lockdown, many COVID-19 apps have been launched to help to contain and tackle the disease. But, as scientists and technologists around the world race to find solutions to the coronavirus crisis, many such apps are developed without robust data protection measures
  • An increase in human error. Human error is the greatest cause of data breaches at the best of times, so it is to be expected that such instances might increase when people are worried and confused
  • An increase in data breaches due to homeworking. As businesses navigate the unprecedented coronavirus crisis and respond by increasing home and remote working, careful consideration around data security is also paramount
  • An increase in cyberscams. According to Action Fraud, criminals are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud innocent people. And, in March 2020, coronavirus-related fraud reports increased by 400%.

Data breach cases show no sign of slowing

Speaking about the impact on our own firm, Kingsley said:

"Despite the pandemic, our expert data protection team remains committed to protecting the rights of the people who need us. All our group actions and individual cases are progressing, and we are still receiving and indeed concluding many claims. As it stands our intake of new claims is remaining constant, and, in some areas, increasing rapidly.

"Of course, we are doing things a little differently right now. The majority of our people are working from home, so calls are currently being answered by our existing 24-hour answering service team. If someone calls us, this team will take the relevant details, and securely pass them on to our legal staff for action. For current clients, this means they might experience a longer delay than usual before we can respond in full. They can, of course, continue to email their solicitor directly with any questions. And, for people who want Hayes Connor to take on a new data breach case, we are still here, and we are happy to help."

Justice can't stop

Kingsley added:

"At Hayes Connor, we continue to hear about serious and worrying data protection failures. And, at a time when coronavirus is already having an impact on mental health, in some cases, the additional worry is proving shattering to victims.

We have put additional support in place for clients who need it with access to online counselling material and services where appropriate.