COVID has led to many industries adapting to the use of technology where in-person meetings were the modus operandi, for the most part. The legal industry is no different and according to a recent Law.com article, virtual courts are seeing lawyers become more efficient in the use of technology for legal proceedings.
Does this mean that lawyers will adapt to remote depositions and court appearances long-term? According to the article, the likeliness of this is low, especially with the larger, more complex cases, where the belief is that attorneys will go back to in-person meetings as soon as local restrictions allow them to.
Some of the considerations that may make remote deposition and witness preps, among other meetings remain on online platforms is the cost-saving side of remote meetings that will reduce travel expenses, as well as time, allowing attorneys to do more meetings in a shorter timespan.
Some of the hindrances to the adoption of virtual meetings long term are the same hindrance factors that have delayed the adoption of technology in years gone by. Internet access is a big factor in the adoption of video meetings, and in many places globally, even in the developed countries, this can still be an issue. Furthermore, digital literacy; the ability to carry out basic tasks on digital devices and the internet, also makes online court proceedings risky, if participants forgot to switch off their microphones before discussing sensitive information, as well as the potential risks of cyber threats, which could intercept video, a common issue with platforms like Zoom.
Another consideration is due process. While technology can automate court proceedings and make it better for everyone, there is concerns regarding how courts can implement mechanisms that can guarantee due process, for example in questioning a witness in a court where you can assess the witness through their testimony and their emotional and physical demeanour. The concern is that with video, it will not be as effective. Another instance is the ability of attorneys to be able to advise their clients of their relevant rights, which could affect attorney-client relationships.
While there are those that are for the rise of technology in legal proceedings and the future for it is positive and optimistic, like in every other industry, the adoption of technology requires preparation and improvement, considerably more so, in the various processes and procedures that encompass legal proceedings, that will provide the same sensitivity, security and due process for everyone involved.