Overcoming eHearings Challenges in an Uncertain Time

Overcoming eHearings Challenges in an Uncertain Time

  • Blog Post
  • Posted on 1 May 2021

By Nicholas Wilson, eHearings Lead Consultant

2020 was an uncertain and challenging time for everyone. A global pandemic brings along uncertainty and drastic changes to the way people live their day-to-day lives. The legal industry is no exception and for a system that focuses itself on procedure and timelines, COVID-19 immediately disrupted the courts and the legal practitioner’s mandate to achieve case management principles using traditional structures.

Technology has certainly played a large part in overcoming some of those obstacles, but when there is such a heavy reliance on technology, other challenges begin to surface. Factors such as learning how to use the technology, reluctance from users to adopt and utilise it, and the risks associated with document security all add to the burdens people already experience due to the pandemic.

Our eHearings team’s focus over the past year has been to ensure those additional challenges are alleviated so that hearings and cases were able to carry on as originally intended. 

Virtual hearings was a major contributor to that success. We conducted our first trial virtual hearing in an international arbitration in early 2020. By the time COVID-19 started to impact Australia, our eHearings team already had processes, systems and most importantly, experience in conducting a virtual hearing.

Key Facts from 2020:

  • Over 350 virtual/hybrid hearings in 2020 
  • The provider for over 30 projects ranging from trials, mediations, arbitrations, tribunals, inquiries and Royal Commissions 
  • During September 2020, we serviced nine different virtual hearings concurrently including the Disability Royal Commission, the Aged Care Royal Commission, NSW Casino Inquiry, the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry, the Bushfire Royal Commission and three trials
  • Our eHearings team increased by 30%

A virtual hearing is not just a standard Zoom call. From the very first test hearing it was clear that a dedicated call manager was necessary. The call manager not only understands the technology and software used to host the virtual hearing but to also focuses and manages the virtual hearing in a way that keeps the proceedings smooth, without delay or disruptions. This includes responsibilities such as appropriately naming and muting participants according to the protocol, creating and transferring participants between multiple break-out rooms and resolving any technical difficulties in real-time.  This allows the legal practitioners and courts to focus on the actual legal matters at hand. 

No case or hearing is exactly alike and not all are undertaken in the same way. Uncertain circumstances arising out of COVID-19 meant things were changing minute by minute. Our eHearings team have always showed a strong commitment to providing technological solutions for clients but the past year has strengthened that commitment further. There were multiple projects that quickly changed from being a traditional eHearing to a completely virtual hearing and in some cases, a hybrid hearing. We were able to adapt to those changing requirements, meeting tight deadlines to get all the systems running for a hearing that was expected to commence soon thereafter.  

Bringing all these new innovations, lessons learnt and wealth of experience from 2020, our eHearings team has entered 2021 with the same dedication to delivering solutions for our clients. Whether it is a full blown virtual trial, a hybrid eHearing or a simple online hearing book, Law In Order will persist in pushing those boundaries in 2021. 

For more information on the current trends on eHearings technology, please see our articles Spotlight on eHearings and Current Trends in Litigation

 

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