Progress in modernising the Scottish courts system must not be lost once the pandemic passes, according to the leader of a Dundee legal firm.
Blackadders managing partner Johnston Clark highlighted the dramatic systemic changes caused by Covid-19. He said that 10 years of progress had been made in the last 10 months.
Virtual hearings and submissions made in writing instead of in person have created “efficiencies”.
Solicitors not spending as much time travelling to courts could also mean smaller bills for customers, he claimed.
Mr Clark told The Courier: “Systems and courts have come forward 10 years in 10 months with the use of technology and ‘default to digital’.
“That must not go backwards. On the civil side, virtual hearings and proofs in writing have created huge efficiencies.
“Going forward, I think there will be a presumption that things will be done digitally when they can.
“I think there will be benefits for clients. If your solicitor is in Dundee and the hearing is in Aberdeen Sheriff Court previously you’d have the time and travel for solicitors.”
Blackadders has also changed its internal processes. Meetings, proof of identification and billing are all done digitally where possible.
Mr Clark said the impact of the pandemic on the business was “less than initially might have been feared”.
Closure of the courts during the first lockdown, hit its litigation and executory practices.
But the residential property side of the business has seen strong demand since the market reopened in July.
Its wealth management arm also performed well last year, with strong client retention and new instructions.
“We know we can cope with pandemic conditions and maintain client service,” he said. “The main concern is for the wellbeing of our staff, and a period of recession and high unemployment will inevitably affect some of our lines.”