Covid-19 – what happens to my hearing now?

Now that we are in lockdown we have been advised that the courts are no longer proceeding with the traditional face to face hearings. Instead, we’re all getting used to the prospect of telephone, email or Skype hearings. We have to have some sympathy with the court who are bending under some pressure prior to this outbreak, and one can only imagine the stress the system is now under.

With the risk of hearings being vacated, adjourned or converted into a more manageable telephone directions hearings only, this is causing frustration and angst for many clients and indeed the legal profession alike.

However fear not as there are alternatives available. Most barristers’ chambers are now set up with far more sophisticated technology indeed; some are “state of the art” which no court can compete with. Many chambers offer video conferencing and the full digital experience, including a virtual courtroom, virtual conference rooms and a space referred to as a “corridor” for the barristers to discuss and negotiate in.

Therefore we can now undertake private FDR’s and, where trials have been listed, one can revert to arbitration in lieu, with the agreement of both parties. These are all hearings that could be managed through the aforementioned remote processes.

Although there may be a concern over the added cost in these straightened times, in reality there is likely to be a cost saving in comparison to the court process, as one has a dedicated “judge” or arbitrator who will be available for the full allocated time and who will have comprehensive prior knowledge of your matter, as one can be sure in such circumstances that they will have read all the papers provided. That alone will save cost as the hearings will be shorter, incurring less costs for the representation.

With the prospect of some form of social distancing going on for months, one cannot foresee when many of these hearings will be re-listed before the courts. We recognise that it may not be comforting to know that the courts are only prioritising urgent matters; however we understand that our clients’ matters are of the upmost importance to them. As a result, private hearings are fast becoming the viable alternative to giving our clients continuity in their matters, avoiding the inherent delay in the court system and, upon a quicker resolution, peace of mind sooner.

If you are worried about your forthcoming hearing and wish to find you more about private FDRs or the arbitration process, please do contact Jan Galloway us on 020 8332 8673 or by email for further information.