Will these changes be temporary or should they have been implemented regardless of a crisis?

What are we going to do with the age old narrative that lawyers, courts, barristers and bureaucracies can only be expected to adopt new technology at a snail’s pace?

The legal sector and associated bureaucracies are certainly not wasting this crisis:

NSW Government

Video conferencing technology like Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom can now be used in the witnessing of legal documents like wills, powers of attorney and statutory declarations under a new regulation. learn more here.

Courts

Virtual hearings

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are conducting court hearings using two main platforms: Microsoft Teams (videoconferencing and/or teleconferencing) and AAPT Teleconferencing. 

The decision as to how a hearing is conducted is a matter for each judicial officer. The Practitioner and litigant guide to virtual hearings and Microsoft Teams for ADR events conducted in the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia can be accessed here.

Responsiveness to circumstances 

The Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia have established a court list dedicated to deal exclusively with urgent parenting-related disputes including those involving issues of family violence arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The COVID-19 List is designed to quickly identify and deal with the cases that need urgent attention due to the COVID-19 crisis. It will also support the work already being conducted by the judiciary.

Barristers

Final hearings are increasingly proceeding with virtual courtroom technology. An update available here focuses on recent contested adjournment applications, examples of how barristers are adapting to virtual courtrooms in practice, and the High Court’s new arrangements for special leave hearings.

Law firms

After years (decades) of debate about its pros and cons, almost everyone is now ‘flexible working’. Staff are working remotely; practitioners across all generations are using Teams and Zoom to collaborate and meet with clients; staff performance is being measured on work produced and not on the appearance of being busy.

Not wasting a crisis

Let’s not forget that all of these changes and more have taken place over the span of only a few weeks – definitely not wasting a good crisis.