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Lawyers are ‘biggest threat to reopening the economy’, claims financial journalist

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Prepare for tide of litigation post-lockdown Michael Lynn forecasts

A financial journalist has claimed that lawyers are the biggest threat to kickstarting the economy once the COVID-19 lockdown is lifted.

“What is the biggest threat to reopening the economy, and the rapid V-shaped recovery we are all hoping for?” questions Matthew Lynn, writing in The Telegraph.

“The real threat is this: lawyers, health and safety officials and the trade unions,” he says. “We have created a lawyer-dominated health and safety obsessed culture that may turn into our biggest enemy as we recover from COVID-19.”

Lynn acknowledges in the short article that businesses will have to reopen as the lockdown is lifted but they (and small businesses in particular) may face “potentially ruinous legal claims, fines for breaching safety rules, and unions itching to blow the whistle on managers who are simply trying to do their job in incredibly difficult circumstances”.

These risks may be “daunting”, and any company contemplating opening up again will have to “reckon with an army of liability and employment lawyers, backed up by health and safety officials and trade unions”, he forecasts. Some businesses may decide it’s not worth taking the risk, and small companies that don’t have their own lawyers, for example, could face financial ruin before a case even comes before a court.

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Lynn continues to outline a web of potential legal dilemmas. “What if staff desks are not arranged the right way to protect people from infectious sneezes? Will the employer get hauled before a tribunal?” he posits, adding that “the list could go on and on”.

He puts forward a number of solutions, suggesting that there should be limits to liability claims, suspensions to regulation and that unions are kept under control.

Lynn proposes a ban on no-win no-fee lawyers from exploiting COVID-19 cases. “Law firms shouldn’t be allowed to tout for coronavirus business, and they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to start organising (potentially lucrative) class actions,” he says.

Businesses need to be able to trade without the fear of legal action when so little is known about the virus, the article concludes.

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