Bakers/KPMG Survey: 65% Say All Hearings Less Than 1 Day Should Be Virtual

A new survey about the longevity of demand for virtual court hearings by Baker McKenzie and KPMG has found that 65% want all hearings that are less than one day to be virtual. That could have a profound and lasting impact on the litigation world, even after the pandemic is over.

Based on a survey of 250 private practice and in-house lawyers, judges, barristers, and clients in the UK, the report highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed attitudes.

The key findings include:

  • 70% would prefer a virtual format for interim applications in their next civil dispute
  • 65% believe all hearings of less than one day should be virtual, as mentioned,
  • 75% believe virtual hearings are cheaper for clients – which is great news,
  • 71% of respondents reported that they had participated in a virtual hearing since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The full report can be requested here.

Charles Thomson, partner in the Dispute Resolution practice at Baker McKenzie in London, said: ‘Undoubtedly, we are seeing a change in how disputes in English courts will be hosted in the future. The pandemic has shown that virtual hearings can bring cost effectiveness and efficiency as key benefits. This is particularly the case in large multi-jurisdictional disputes as counsel, parties, experts and witnesses are no longer required to travel. 75% of survey respondents believed that virtual hearings are cheaper for the parties than face-to-face hearings.’

While, Roy Waligora, Head of Investigations and Corporate Forensics at KPMG UK, added: ‘Improvements in forensic and communication technology will allow court proceedings to continue virtually whilst minimising health risks, reducing cost and simultaneously addressing the backlog currently being faced by the criminal justice system, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

‘Long-term, we are all operating in a digital world and concerns such as those raised by survey respondents around how secure and confidential virtual hearings may be, will need to be prioritised if digital justice is to be future-proofed.’

Overall, this shows that although the digitisation of the courts was enforced to some degree, the benefits have been felt and there is no turning back, at least for some types of court hearings.

Also, the view that this change has reduced costs is a very welcome finding.