“This article has been produced by an independent contributor and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Immediation team or the brand as a whole.”
The landscape of court hearing and mediation proceedings is rapidly changing after the start of the global pandemic in 2020. Prior to the global pandemic, it was unusual for court hearings to be conducted virtually, unless extenuating circumstances made it a necessity in order for fair and legal proceedings to be held.
However, now that this is a far more common practice, it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons of keeping virtual court hearings as a viable option moving forward- even when stay-at-home orders end, and courts are once again open to the public.
It is worth keeping in mind that while many proceedings are held over zoom, zoom is not specifically tailored to legal practitioners needs, and it might be worth exploring alternative options that have more purpose-built features.
In fact, there have been several instances of Zoom being misused in courts since the start of the pandemic, including the “mute” button not being used correctly, resulting in cursing, loud eating, and scenes from videos being loudly played in the courtroom.
The misuse of filters and names has also occurred, mostly due to children utilizing the same software to login to school or connect with friends.
In addition, the landscape of court hearings and mediation proceedings is rapidly changing, so many of the potential pitfalls of this method are in the process of being addressed at the time of writing this article.
Pros of online court hearings
Timing and quick resolution.
Arguably one of the most critical benefits of online mediation and court hearing is timing. In-person court hearings have been stalled and delayed by the pandemic, and online facilities have allowed these processes to proceed. In addition, this opens the path for a speedier hearing process moving forward, with a quicker start-time, less chance of someone being delayed and an easier time with court hearings that may feature people in different states or countries.
Convenience and ease of attendance.
One issue that people face regarding live court hearings, mediation proceedings and other litigation, is attendance. This might be due to time constraints, unforeseen circumstances, location, or other obstacles and barriers. By allowing people to attend through an online platform, it is easier for people to attend their hearings. In addition, this is often more cost-effective, as it reduces travel time for the legal team and litigants.
Increased witness credibility.
It is often a lot easier for a witness to testify from the comfort of their own home, which can create a more reliable testimonial. In addition, many judges feel there are less distractions and it allows for a more upfront view of the witness, (making the case for increased eye contact and a clear view).
Easier domestic cases and divorce.
In the case of domestic cases, such as a divorce, it is much easier to see and analyse the home and substantiate claims from the other parent. In addition, it can be a useful tool in the mediation process, as an online mediation session allows for both parties to express their concerns and desires, with a non-biased mediator present. This often results in a much easier court proceeding.
Teleconferencing makes it more urgent and more practical for attorneys to reach agreements with opposing counsel. In addition, the mediation process is much more accessible prior to a hearing, which can decrease the length of the hearing.
Privacy with breakout rooms.
While it is of course possible to speak privately in a court hearing, it is a lot more challenging to reach the complete privacy afforded by online communication. This allows for quicker resolutions and allows for more effective and clean communication between all parties.
In certain instances, pertaining to domestic violence and other similar cases, being able to attend a heading from the comfort of your own home (often with family for support), might be a comfort and reassurance for many people going through the process.
Cons of online court hearings
Protecting the integrity of testimony.
One large concern about online proceedings, is that proceedings are not always private, (due to laws surrounding public access to current court hearings). As a judge cannot fully control an online court room, there is no way of knowing if a witness is being coached, coerced, or assisted in any way. This causes doubt regarding the integrity of testimony. However, when you work with purpose-built mediation and hearing software (such as Immediation), judges, associates or arbitrators have complete control over the proceedings. They manage the audio, video and chat of participants and ensure that no-one moves around without permission. As a result, the authority and presence of the judicial officer or arbitrator is thereby preserved.
One large concern about online proceedings, is that proceedings are not always private, (due to laws surrounding public access to current court hearings). As such, concerns about illegal phone recordings or screen recordings and the circulation of these recordings, causes concern. This is another instance where a purpose-built software, such as Immediation, can help, buy utilizing secure encrypted video, which ensures the security, privacy, and confidentiality of your cases; slowing you to uphold your ethical obligations without concern.
Disclosure of confidential information.
It is not uncommon for personal and sensitive legal documents to be shared during proceedings. As a similar point to the one above, there is concern about the privacy and legalities surrounding the protection of these documents online. It is critical to ensure you utilize a purpose-built software, which has the capacity for secure document upload and sharing. Immediation enables the clients and lawyer teams to seamlessly share documents between themselves privately either before or during a matter as well as share them with the other side.
Safety in domestic violence cases.
While some people may access the support of their family, others may live in the same home, which can cause a major safety issue for domestic violence survivors. Measures need to be put in place in these instances to give the added support necessary.
Suggestions to optimize online hearings.
New measures need to be taken and made standard in regard to ensuring the judge still controls the courtroom and can ensure privacy. Through banning access of the public access hearings to children, asking to view rooms to ensure witnesses are not being coached, and ensure there are consequences for any violation of typical legal proceedings and the relevant law.
Safeguarding sensitive matters.
Sensitive hearings pertaining to children, adoption, or other sensitive topics should not be made public. In addition, the use of breakout rooms to discuss sensitive information can reduce the amount of private information being shared and protect people who are part of the case or hearing.
Use the correct programs.
Zoom is an exceptional tool to support online work and collaboration, but it was not created for legal professionals and court hearings. As such, it does not have the infrastructure to support certain safeguards.
As such, using a purpose-build program is the best way to ensure control and privacy. One such purpose-built software is Immediation. Created by a barrister, Immediation streamlines and optimises hearings, arbitrations, mediations, negotiations, witness conferences and more. Immediation is in use by the Australian Federal courts, New Zealand government, and major law firms.
Immediation features end-to-end, cyber-security tested video, doc-encryption, GDPR compliant, sensitive to legal ethics and confidentiality and is compliant with the world’s most stringent privacy standards.
In addition to a range of high-level features, Immediation also provides the following benefits and support options:
- Created by lawyers.
It’s a serious matter, not a zoom meeting. Immediation knows the tools you need and how you use them and gives them to you all in one place.
- Encrypted security.
Next generation firewalling, global load balancing and encryption of all data at rest and in transit. Tested using military level methodology.
- White glove service.
Service when you need it. Setting up and managing a single matter? Need to access expert mediators and arbitrators? We’ve got you covered.
In addition, you can expect the following purpose-built features and options when you work with Immediation:
- Digital mediation suite
- Digital hearing room
- Secure encrypted video
- Virtual backgrounds
- Witness access control
- Advanced private rooms
- Document upload and sharing
- Court book or tribunal book
- Document co-drafting
- Settlement agreement drafting
- Encrypted e-signing with customizable execution clauses
- Templated settlement agreements
The team of legal and technical experts at Immediation are here to help answer any questions you might have about the use of the software in legal proceedings. Fully supported and created by lawyers, you’ll not only receive high-level technical support, but practical implementation to make the process as quick, painless and seamless as possible.
Want to learn more? Simply reach out to the team and they will get back to you with advice tailored to your situation.