In January 2017, I identified a series of technology-related trends that were making electronic trials and hearings with remote participation not only possible, but increasingly practical. As I revisit this topic today, restrictions on travel, work-at-home mandates and bans on even small gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic are causing turmoil and uncertainty in the legal community, including widespread postponements and scheduling changes. Judges, court officials and litigators are scrambling to find new ways to accommodate remote proceedings and adhere to schedules without participants being able to meet in person.
While three years ago I could not have anticipated the events of the last few months, it’s clear the time for leveraging technology to support virtual trials, hearings, arbitrations and depositions has arrived. Back then, I wrote about the emergence of tools for real-time online legal collaboration, “pop-up” technology to digitize courts and hearing rooms, and international arbitrations with remote participation. I also called attention to the integration of digital courtroom technology with pre-trial applications for case management, case analysis, deposition and transcript management, and more. All of this seems more relevant than ever today.
It is a little-publicized fact that some legal practitioners have been participating in digital trials, hearings and similar proceedings for almost a decade in jurisdictions across the world. We can all benefit from the experience of these “pioneers” of remote legal work. Suddenly forced to do our jobs from dispersed locations, we in the legal profession must now think seriously about identifying and deploying tools that allow us to resume important litigation-related functions under these very new circumstances.