Practicing In a Pandemic: Civil Dispute Resolutions are Pushed Forward Amidst COVID-19
By Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L. November 16, 2020
If there’s one silver-lining of the pandemic’s impact on the legal industry, it is that it has brought us to the next logical evolution of technology in the practice of law much sooner than expected. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have had to adjust our everyday lives to comply with health and safety standards, and our work life was no exception. In a matter of days, the world was forced to work remotely and adopt the daily use of virtual platforms. This shift has created a more efficient legal industry in many instances.
As evident through my casework over the last several months, the courts’ abilities to address and for the parties to ultimately resolve civil disputes have been accelerated thanks to this added push and the use of technology.
A Faster Court System
Many of the courts have had more time and resources to get through cases as a result of putting in-person jury trials on hold during the pandemic. Because the courts have generally not been conducting live jury trials, the judges had the opportunity to move non-jury and pretrial matters along more expeditiously. Hearings can now be scheduled in a matter of weeks, as opposed to months, which has led to faster resolutions.
Working Remotely Has Led to Greater Efficiency
Our firm has remained open for urgent matters because law firms are considered essential businesses in Florida, but most of our attorneys have been working remotely. As a result, a commute to the office that once took an hour or more is now time devoted to helping our clients resolve their disputes. Additionally, cutting down on travel time has allowed for a healthier work-life balance. For example, I can now make time in my schedule to exercise every day, and as a result, I’m able to be an even more focused and effective lawyer.
Working remotely has also allowed us to save time and costs as a result of not having to travel as much – or at all. Before the pandemic, it was customary for legal professionals to carve out hours or days to travel for a hearing that would be over in a matter minutes. Now, because we can connect virtually from any location, we can use video platforms that allow us to attend a 15-minute hearing without ever stepping foot in a courtroom. As a result, our attorneys can do the same amount of work in a fraction of the time it would normally take, saving time and reducing expenses for our clients.
Looking Ahead: Virtual Meetings are Here to Stay
The pandemic’s impact will no doubt leave its mark on the legal world, forcing us to become more technologically-advanced. Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms have allowed us to effectively conduct meetings, depositions, and hearings remotely, and screen sharing functions allow multiple parties to see the same document or presentation at once. This adaptation is saving time, money, and trees.
Granted, some things can be lost in translation, such as the advantage of being in a courtroom and looking a witness in the eye or making sure witnesses aren’t being fed information behind the camera. However, we have learned to adapt and to minimize these issues.
Even when we are able to return in person to the courts, it will likely be up to each individual judge whether they choose to conduct a particular hearing in-person or virtually. I anticipate we will continue doing many things remotely well after the pandemic is in the history books. Our firm’s work through the pandemic and our investments in technology have prepared us to adapt and to continue adapting to our world’s ever-evolving conditions.
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