In the past year, the world as we knew changed. The Covid-19 pandemic struck so sudden and so hard that no one really had time to prepare. The Covid-19 outbreak impacted every construct of life and society in one form or another, and to date, measures are being explored to first adapt to the change and then to prepare to mitigate a recurrence of the blow dealt. Since its declaration as a pandemic in January 2020, several measures, the most extreme of isolation and quarantine, were instituted to curb the coronavirus’s transmission. The pandemic made it necessary for every organization to develop strategies meant to keep them operating.
These measures made it necessary for global health and the continuity of the human race, and it made it evident that change is possible. And even though the adjustments sometimes impacted the activity, for instance, there has been a significant increase in the backlog of cases in the legal industry, an increase that only exacerbated an already lagging system. All the stakeholders worked together to ensure there was hope despite the bleakness; a hope that, like in the past, this wave of the pandemic will pass, a hope that with the advancement of technology, our many and well-learned scientists will find a cure, giving the pandemic a short term to terrorize humankind. Even though that is not yet the case, we can look and admire the steps taken to make sure that life is not put on a halt forever, Zoom Litigation and Zoom Hearings are commonplace to serve a dual purpose – curb transmission and solve the backlogging.
In a bid to address the piling backlog observed in the legal industry, several courthouses and justice systems have introduced the options of running sessions virtually, using Zoom (Zoom Hearings and Zoom Litigation) or Microsoft (MS) Teams. Besides the fact that this measure respects the social distancing health requirement, there is the added advantage of an infinite number of hearings that can be run simultaneously, seeing as there are no limits on the amount of physical hearings room required.
“But just what kind of cases can and should be addressed virtually, and where do we draw the line?” This is unquestionably amongst the most frequently asked question pertaining to virtualization court proceedings. From recent updates, though, courts in Ontario report successfully addressing several legal proceedings virtually, including witnessing wills and powers of attorney. To further ameliorate the presenting problems, proposals for measures have been put forward, including consolidating tribunals to create a common avenue to resolve disputes, thus eliminating case overlaps.
In conclusion, there is no disputing how far-reaching the impact of technology is on the legal industry in this dispensation. With the development of several technological platforms that promote running meetings virtually, every business and industry in tune with the digital world can benefit from functioning efficiently despite presenting physical limitations. Although the jury is still out on whether or not the use of these measures should be continued post-pandemic, the question of if the legal industry should embrace technology with open arms today should be an easy one to answer given the long-term repercussions of holding back. It is evident that for as long as the backlog issues persist, holding virtual court sessions is the better option to “give everyone their day in court” on time. To accelerate the virtual change and to reduce the backlogs the governments should consider forming “specialized teams” or “Task Forces“. Comprised of active and retired judges, supported by tech-savvy auxiliary staff, these teams should be capable of conducting multiple hearings virtually first to decimate the backlog and prevent a recurrence by maintaining the seamless flow of legal proceedings.
Coronavirus confirmed as pandemic by World Health Organization. (2020, March)Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51839944
Covid and the courts: ‘Grave concerns’ for justice, warn watchdogs. (2021, January). Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-55712106
Nova Scotia. N.S. court backlog ‘worse than ever’ after pandemic shutdown. (2020, November). Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/nova-scotiacourt-backlog-covid-19-shutdown-1.5790918
Toronto. Ontario moves to change judicial appointments in effort to boost access to justice. (2021, February). Available at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontjudicial-appointments-1.5915962