Virtual Hearings and Trials - A Look Back One Year Later
In mid-March 2020, the practice of law changed in many fundamental ways — far greater than our collective shift to home offices, kitchens and spare bedrooms. And for litigators, this was especially the case. At the time, I had a bench trial set to commence less than a month later. Among the parties, we had a total of 10 lawyers and litigation support staff and 16 witnesses – not to mention client representatives, the Judge, the court reporter and the courtroom staff. Given the high-profile nature of the case, media were also expected to be present. Yet with the stroke of the Governor’s pen and the pronouncement of a mandatory 6-foot distancing requirement, there was suddenly no chance we were making it into a courtroom. None of the parties desired to delay the case, and so began our scramble to develop procedures for a virtual trial, largely from whole cloth. Six weeks later, we all found ourselves on Zoom – a platform I hadn’t even heard of before March – and over the course of eight days we successfully conducted our first virtual trial. My firm then handled three more over the course of the year.