Virtual Trials & Remote Hearings
A new way to access the legal system
What is a remote hearing and how do they work?
Virtual court hearings are conducted by the parties’ legal representatives, where all relevant parties to the case appears on one or more virtual platforms instead of appearing in-person. A virtual hearing usually take place either via telephone (known as telephone hearing) or via a video conference platform, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Business Skype, etc. Both audio and video conference platforms require the parties to have a set pre-agreed procedure in place to comply with Court rules.
Just like in-person hearings, virtual trials require a court reporter or legal transcription service to record the hearing and make soft or hard copy of the transcription available to the Judges. The Court has all the same powers and will expect all participants to treat it as seriously as an in-person hearing.
Our experience of remote trials during Covid-19 pandemic before UK High Court.
In early May 2020, Barton Legal successfully led the first entirely remote virtual trial in the Business and Property Courts (formerly Technology and Construction Court), via Zoom. As the Zoom video conferencing platform was not utilised by the UK Courts at the time, we could not draw upon prior experience of others; but rather led the way and demonstrated to others what could be achieved through the elevation of technology.
With meticulous planning, preparation, attention to detail, collaboration with all parties, including counsel, experts, clients and representative of the defendants, we ensured the trial ran smoothly. Evidence was shared efficiently, multiple witnesses and nine experts were forensically cross examined, and a settlement was reached in just five days. The proceedings were safely opened to the viewing public and press, that numbered over 50 on each day, and persistent questions around cybersecurity were answered. Our carefully planned case provided the blueprint for future virtual cases, even after the pandemic has retreated.
Barton legal demonstrated through this pioneering case that technology can and should be embraced not just during the Covid-19 pandemic, but beyond. Given the right planning and confidence, video technology is a wonderful tool and will continue to play a vital role in legal processes moving forward.
Ever since the first remote trial, Barton Legal have been conducting remote hearings in the High Court, as well as representing clients in virtual adjudications, arbitrations and mediations.
How does a virtual trial compare with the experience of a physical court room?
Virtual trials are not constrained to the physical court room. There is greater flexibility of process, no time and costs for travelling to a distant court, and arguably less intimidating and possibly more comfortable for factual and expert witnesses as they able to provide evidence in the comfort of their own home or offices.
What happens if participants cannot make it safely to Court?
In some circumstances, where for example parties’ witnesses are abroad and cannot make it to the UK courts either because of Covid-19 restriction and/or for other work related or personal reasons, hybrid proceedings can be considered.
What is a hybrid hearing and how do they work?
A hybrid hearing is a mixture of a remote hearing and in-person hearing. Some participants can attend the court in person and others will join the hearing remotely. There is no doubt that hybrid hearings will become more popular over time as it will provide greater flexibility to parties to avoid costly adjournments and delays, and ensure the legal process can continue without delay.
Barton Legal have experience in conducting both remote and hybrid hearings and can assist parties to present their case in a smooth and clear manner.
Barton Legal are experienced and have in-depth knowledge of using several types of video-conferencing platforms. For example, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Business Skype. Barton Legal works in collaboration with dedicated IT helpdesks and virtual hearing administrators, such as KS services and Virtual Approval.
Bill is a regular contributor to a range of industry journals especially in relation to our experience with virtual trials. Recently published article has been featured in journals such as Construction News, PCB Today and New Civil Engineer. A list of examples of articles are as follows:
Legal battles: Zooming into the future (theconstructionindex.co.uk)
Why extending working hours could land you in court Construction News
Construction court Zooms to judgment (theconstructionindex.co.uk)
PBC Today August 2020 Planning, BIM & Construction Today
Leading construction lawyer Bill Barton calls for virtual trials to stay - New Civil Engineer
Zoom construction case signals ‘shift in English courtroom history’ (pbctoday.co.uk)
Barton Legal has presented a webinar on remote hearings and the related resources are available on our YouTube channel and website; Remote Trials & Virtual Courtrooms
Keith Oliver: Peters & Peters Solicitors
“Barton Legal did more than just do their best, they joined a team and adapted it to get the best out of everyone. What must not be overlooked is that the size of the law firm is not proportionate to their effectiveness, but requires leadership and management which is provided in heaps at Barton Legal!”
Paul Darling OBE QC- 39 Essex Chambers
“Bill and his team did an outstanding job in setting up a Zoom Hearing which was, I think the first remote Trial in the Technology and Construction Court. They prepared realistically for the challenges and got to know how the technology worked and used it to advantage. They took every party in the process, Judge, Court, opponents, clients and experts along with this difficult and unfamiliar journey with great skills”