How are remote hearings working so far?

Some 12 months ago, COVID-19 hit, significantly impacting the way court hearings were held. Courts immediately adapted and organised remote hearings. A year later and Law360 takes stock in a special feature by asking lawyers how they have experienced this change and whether virtual courts are working in practice, including from London Partner Lucy Pert.

Lucy, who has had first-hand experience of several remote hearings says:

"By and large remote hearings work well, particularly where the matter involves principally legal argument. Some benefits are clear: there is a cost saving when court facilities do not need to be used; the hearings feel less intimidating — a good thing for a client — and are much more time efficient.” She continued: “But there are certain interruptions that do not occur in a courtroom: difficulties with technology, people forgetting to mute their microphones and people joining halfway through the submissions forgetting to turn off their video. I attended one hearing where defending counsel was unable to make submissions because the video distorted her voice with the judge commenting that she sounded like a Disney mouse — far from ideal.”

“I think it is difficult to achieve the same level of open justice online as in a courtroom accessible to members of the public. Informal communication is also more difficult. While we can use WhatsApp, it is not as efficient as being able to pass a short note or speak to counsel directly.”

She concluded: “Remote hearings have proven their value. They can be efficient for certain matters such as case management conferences and light interlocutory hearings where only legal argument is required, but I think that trials involving witnesses should still be heard in person."

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