Coronavirus update for the ACT legal profession

Friday, 6 November 2020

Coronavirus update for the ACT legal profession

Last update: 26 November 2020, 9am.

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

Members are encouraged to refer to the following resources:


ACT Law Society updates

Tips for managing the legal workforce as COVID-19 restrictions ease in the ACT

As the COVID-19 risk reduces in the ACT (for the time being) and restrictions continue to ease, there are a few HR questions on the minds of workplaces about how to manage staff during this phase. The Law Society’s Industrial Relations Committee has published this guide to some Frequently Asked Questions to help ACT Law Firms navigate this period. [read more]

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

COVID and face to face CPD sessions: For the comfort and safety of our members, many of our upcoming CPD sessions are available either online or in-person. When you register, please let us know if you'd prefer to watch the CPD online (either live, or at a later date). If you choose the live-stream option you can still interact, ask questions, and be a meaningful participant at the seminar. The safety of our members is our biggest priority during this time. If you are sick please stay at home and request a recording or live-stream link. If you have any questions or concerns please contact Carissa on carissa.webster@actlawsociety.asn.au.

X3 Free CPD: As part of the COVID-19 financial support being offered by the Society, all members can claim up to three hours of CPD free of charge during the period 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. [read more]

Settlements Office

In order to allow the settlements room to keep functioning, a maximum of 25 people are permitted in the room at any one time, and government-mandated social distancing and cleanliness must be maintained. Practitioners are requested to use agents where possible to achieve this reduction. The priority for the Society is the health of those using 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.

Room hire

No room hire bookings will be taken until further notice.

Legal advice services

The Legal Advice Bureau is on hold until further notice.


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.

Canberra Community Law have launched a website covering common legal areas that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please note that the Covid Legal Clinic will be closed until Thursday 4 February 2021 to allow volunteer lawyers to take a break from what has been a very stressful year.


Courts updates

ACT Supreme Court and ACT Magistrates Court

Registry counter reopening: The Court Registry counter will reopen for lodgements from 14 September 2020. Court users are advised that from Monday, 14 September 2020, documents may only be lodged over the counter; or if you are a legal practitioner registered for eLodgment, by eLodgment. Documents will not be accepted for filing by email after Friday 11 September 2020.

Commencing 15 June 2020, the Supreme Court will resume jury trials in cases where Court facilities and resources mean that social distancing and other health safety measures can be achieved for jurors, accused persons, witnesses, legal practitioners, and Court staff. All Court attendees will be required to cooperate with measures deemed appropriate by Court and security staff, including temperature testing. For a significant number of matters (including matters involving multiple accused), it will not be feasible to conduct jury trials in the near future.

Commencing 2 June 2020, Magistrates Court operations will resume significantly, with hygiene and social distancing measures remaining in place. People attending the ACT Law Courts building should allow extra time to pass through security noting there may be considerable delays due to physical distancing measures.

ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)

As a general rule, at this time ACAT is not scheduling any face-to-face conferences, mediations or hearings. Unless advised otherwise, parties, their representatives and witnesses must attend an upcoming listing by telephone or, if arrangements can be made, by video link.

People who attend ACAT must comply with ACAT's conditions of entry and the order of the ACAT President. The order of the ACAT President was made in response to COVID-19. It sets out when people are not permitted to enter ACAT and when they may be requested to leave. 

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

Courts remain open by conducting trials and other hearings electronically via telephone or Microsoft Teams. However, all face-to-face hearings in the Melbourne registries are suspended. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Court has modified its practices to minimise in-person attendance on Court premises, with the Court’s priority being the health and safety of the community, parties, practitioners, judges and staff, and the families of all of these groups. 

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 will continue to remain open during the new stage 4 restrictions in Metropolitan Melbourne. The Courts’ operations will continue via Microsoft Teams, and also by telephone in certain circumstances. Unless otherwise notified, all trials and applications will go ahead, and the National COVID-19 Lists will continue to operate. Hearings will be conducted by Judges, Registrars and staff from their homes if possible but otherwise they will be in the Court buildings if a case is required to proceed and working from home is not reasonably practicable.

Face-to-face hearings are currently not possible in the Melbourne and Dandenong Registries but as soon as the restrictions lift, priority will be given to urgent cases involving high risks of family violence that cannot be heard by Microsoft Teams.

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.

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, variation to timetables or preparation for hearings, to Michael Raine Legal Assistant (Paralegal) on (08) 8219 1641 or michael.raine@familycourt.gov.au.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

The AAT is taking steps to resume some in-person hearings, at all AAT registries except for Melbourne.

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