Socially-distanced juries, virtual trials, and a mass shift to remote working — these are just some of the radical steps that have been taken to allow justice to be served during lockdown.
Almost every part of our economy has had to adapt to Covid-19 and the legal system is no different. One constant throughout these times of change, however, has been the Old Bailey. It has remained open in a safe and socially-distanced way, handling a range of complex cases.
We are proud to host one of the country’s most important courts within the City. The Square Mile has a long history as a legal hub, but we cannot afford to take this for granted.
That is why the City of London Corporation recently launched an initial consultation on the next stage of our plans for a new court and police complex on Fleet Street.
This new flagship 18 courtroom facility, with a new state-of-the-art headquarters for the City of London Police, will strengthen our justice system and help us crack down on fraud and economic crime. And — by incorporating cutting edge technology and design — it will enhance London’s reputation as the place where business is done best.
Our legal sector generates over £60bn each year and employs over half a million people. It is a truly world-leading legal industry: five of the world’s top 15 law firms have their main base of operations in the UK.
Its historic success is in part down to the unique combination of factors — including time zone, language, global talent, and wide-ranging financial ecosystem — which enshrines the City of London’s status as a global financial capital.
Legal services are one of the UK’s most requested exports and, as a lawyer myself, I know all too well the major role the law plays in the attractiveness in the UK as a place to do business.
This was highlighted last week at the first ever HM Judges’ virtual event, which saw the lord mayor, lord chancellor and lord chief justice address senior legal professionals.
One issue in particular that was high up the agenda is the UK’s continued membership of the Lugano Convention after the transition period with the EU ends. The Convention plays an important role in determining which countries’ courts have jurisdiction over cross-border civil and commercial disputes, as well as ensuring that judgments can be enforced overseas.
Our membership is vital — not just for our legal services, but for businesses and individuals across the UK and the EU. This is a point I and the lord mayor will continue to make in our interactions with our EU partners.
We are also supporting our innovative businesses, which are merging technology and law to transform how legal services are delivered. Already, the UK is a leader here — we receive half of all global investment in lawtech. We want to ensure that the UK’s lawtech offer continues to grow, which is why we are working with the legal sector, innovators, and the Ministry of Justice on our Lawtech Sounding Board. This cooperation will help us to seize opportunities and support innovation in this burgeoning sector.
Despite the challenges the immediate future may bring, I know that, through partnership with government and innovators, law is a sector that will continue to thrive.
Main image credit: Getty