How COVID-19 Has Changed Access to Justice

Kim Koelmeyer

COVID-19 has led to unprecedented challenges to the legal profession. 

A world that used to rely on in-person meetings and procedures have suddenly been forced to pivot. Providing access to justice looks completely different to a few months ago, along with the community’s legal needs. 

How we respond to this changing landscape is crucial, both for the future of the legal profession and the welfare of clients now.

New Legal Challenges

COVID-19 has created a new legal landscape. With everyone working from home, and many losing their jobs, more people are experiencing new legal disputes. 

The pandemic has seen increases in family violence, new employment law issues and notably, a lot of movement in the tenancy space. People losing their jobs or having hours reduced has made it much harder, if not impossible, for tenants to make rent payments through no fault of their own. Therefore, tenants may be facing eviction in a world telling them to stay home. 

To assist tenants and landlords through the pandemic, the Victorian Government has introduced new laws around tenancies. Key changes include a 6-month ban on evictions, and new options to apply for a rent reduction in cases of financial hardship. 

To ensure tenants are informed of their rights under the new laws, we’ve prepared an FAQ with more information. 

Increased Legal Demand

In light of these new challenges, lawyers’ ability to provide assistance has been limited by social distancing restrictions. 

Many law firms and community legal centres are now providing services, including legal advice and duty lawyer services, by phone. This makes the process of getting legal help longer and harder to access. The Victorian Government has recognised the work community legal centres are doing on the frontlines, announcing a $17.5 million funding boost to assist community legal centres with providing legal assistance through the pandemic.

“Using legal technology has been seen as a way of future-proofing yourself for an evolving legal industry. COVID-19 has meant that these skills are essential right now. Legal practices have glimpsed what the future holds and are desperate for lawyers who have the practical skills needed to deliver virtual legal services without compromising the service’s quality” Noel Lim, Anika's CEO says. 

These challenges have shown a need to provide efficient, compassionate legal services virtually, a need Anika is addressing. 

Changing Approaches to Justice

In response to COVID-19, Anika Legal launched our COVID-19 Rent Reduction Support Service. We work with Victorian tenants, providing free, online legal assistance with negotiating a rent reduction with their landlord. Since launching, we have seen unprecedented client demand, and have helped tenants stand up for their rights. 

“The best part about gaining practical legal experience at Anika is you’re actually making a meaningful impact in these client’s lives.”  Evia Zachariah, Anika Paralegal says.

We are also excited to be a host organisation with participating Victorian law schools, including the University of Melbourne’s LAWS50059 Legal Internship Unit. Applications for Semester 2 are currently open! 

Interning with Anika will allow you to learn new skills such as communication, teamwork and negotiation, and be supported by supervising lawyers. You will also have a tangible impact on access to justice during a pandemic, all while earning credit towards your degree. 

You can find a more detailed position description here. Applications close June 5!

If Anika is not yet available at your law school, you can register your interest for future opportunities here.

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