Running a hearing during COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit, no one was immune, and courts and tribunals across Australia had to pause, assess, and implement change. In Victoria, most almost immediately closed the doors to in-person hearings and shifted all court proceedings online.

Litigation teams questioned the impact this would have on current and future matters, their clients, working with their counsel, the judge and the other parties.

Here at Kalus Kenny Intelex, we accepted the ‘new normal’ and immediately adapted and met the challenge.

We have successfully run injunction applications, mediations, directions hearings and trials throughout.

All whilst remote.

For example, we have just completed a high profile two day hearing in the Federal Court.

Our legal team was made up of three solicitors, a Queens Counsel and two junior counsel. From our end, the process was  seamless, and this did not go unnoticed by the Judge and the other parties.

Here are our top tips for running a successful virtual court hearing (or for that matter any multi party meeting):

Microphone and Camera

Most hearings will be run via an online platform such as Zoom or Teams. For precise sound and image, we used an external microphone and video camera device. The audio and visual was far superior to that which comes through from a webcam in a computer or laptop.

Amplify the acoustics

Our matter was a large and complex one involving numerous solicitors, counsel, and third party observers. For clear acoustics and no echoes we had only one device logged into the Court hearing per room, with the screen expanding onto a large projector for the room. We had no sound issues and this greatly assisted the judge.

Use your space

Our office is perfectly equipped to run a virtual court hearing. We had one boardroom set up with three Counsel and a KKI lawyer, socially distanced around the room. KKI operated and controlled its side of the virtual court room from a laptop projected onto a large screen, while the camera and microphone was on our Queen’s Counsel. The external camera device was easily rotated by remote control when other members of counsel spoke.

In a separate board room, we had KKI lawyers, the client and support persons. Once again, we had adequate space permitting comfortable social distancing. We watched the Court session on a large TV screen via a smart TV.

Evidence and Cross examination

This can be tricky as it is important for a witness to be set up alone and comfortable in a space without distractions. We set our “witness box” up in a large room on his own with a big screen, camera and microphone. When in the “box” the witness  had a hard copy of all documents required for the purpose of giving evidence. It was scarcely different to sitting in the witness box in a Court room. The case also had many thousands of documents that needed to be accessed and managed remotely as part of the process.

Be prepared!

Technology is a temperamental and unpredictable beast, and the last thing you want are glitches to occur in front of a judge, causing delay and disruption to the hearing. Our virtual set up at the KKI offices did not experience a single hiccup during our Federal Court hearing.

This is thanks to careful consideration of all factors, state of the art facilities, multiple test runs, and having our reliable, smart and talented KKI team on hand to run the show seamlessly.