Out-Law Analysis | 23 Mar 2020 | 10:28 am | 3 min. read
At a time when many arbitral institutions and courts have advised parties, arbitrators and others involved in arbitrations to consider the potential impact of coronavirus, or Covid-19, parties should explore the option of holding a virtual hearing.
Virtual hearings will not be a panacea in every case, however they may be a viable option for parties who might otherwise be faced with an extended period of financial uncertainty.
In the fast-moving health and economic crisis arising out of the coronavirus, or Covid-19, pandemic, it is important for parties to ongoing legal proceedings to consider the options available to them to overcome social-distancing and travel restrictions.
International arbitration is particularly vulnerable to disruption caused by the Covid-19 outbreak due to the disparate locations of parties, arbitrators, witnesses and others involved in a hearing, as well as the differing recommendations and directives applying to those locations.
Many parties are now faced with a difficult decision, particularly where an in-person hearing had been planned for the near future. Some options might be to:
The use of technology as part of legal proceedings is commonplace. In many jurisdictions we have become familiar with some witnesses providing evidence remotely by video-link, for example.
There are a number of platforms on the market which are capable of hosting a virtual hearing. Many allow for the sharing of documents and this is especially effective when paired with an online review book. The platforms also provide virtual break out rooms and private chat features, either for one-to-one conversations or as a group.
Costs associated with virtual hearings are relatively low, especially when the savings gained by avoiding travel costs are taken into account.
Virtual hearings will not be appropriate in all circumstances, however.
Some factors against virtual hearings might be:
Parties to extant legal proceedings should weigh up all the factors and work out what is best for them. In some cases a virtual hearing may well be the answer.
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