On 23 June 2020, CYK had the pleasure of hosting a webinar with a panel of legal experts from five major European jurisdictions to discuss how technology has been utilised during the Covid-19 pandemic to deliver justice and to consider the impact the experience may have on how justice is delivered across Europe in the long term. We heard perspectives from Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and the UK.
For those of you who missed out, we have put together a summary of the five key takeaways:
- Courts have found their own way forward – for the majority of jurisdictions, individual states, regions or even judges were, at least initially, left to decide how exactly to continue to deliver justice within the bounds of the conditions of lockdown. For all jurisdictions we heard from, the Courts rose to the challenge and have been utilising video hearings, many for the first time, and often requiring liberal interpretations of procedural rules. Laws and rules have since caught up, but it remains to be seen how permanent these changes will be as lockdown rules gradually ease.
- The arbitration community has embraced change – the arbitration community across Europe (both practitioners and institutions) have been able to adapt even faster. Video hearings and meetings have rapidly become the norm, with significant time and costs savings being seen without the need for flights, hotels and hearing centres. While some concerns remain, it looks as if video hearings are here to stay.
- Cybersecurity will be at the forefront of any permanent changes – the speed with which technology was utilised across Europe to allow courts to function was remarkable. Given that this was the priority, cybersecurity issues are likely to take on increasing importance moving forward, as the use of technology becomes more routine. The more used to working remotely people get, the more digitised a justice system becomes, which facilitates the risk of evermore sophisticated attacks.
- E-filing is here to stay – having the legal profession across Europe working from home has had the unsurprising impact of an increase in the use of e-filing systems, which are in operation but not mandatory in most jurisdictions. Old habits die hard, but the pandemic has forced both the judiciary and practitioners to adapt and see that new things can also work.
- Alternative service methods should be formally considered – in the UK at least, there is also the hope that it will also lead to an increasingly flexible response from the Courts and ultimately the legislature in terms of service rules to utilise technology, reducing both the costs and carbon footprints associated with traditional service methods. Full utilisation of e-filing and electronic service methods would allow for improved remote working.
The overriding theme was that the future has arrived a lot faster than expected. The pandemic has lit a fire under reforms that may otherwise have taken years to become common place. It will be for the legislatures across Europe to continue driving forward with these changes, and for practitioners to reflect on these challenging times to consider how technology can best utilised for the benefit of both their clients and the system as a whole going forward.
Should you wish to discuss any of the issues above, the list of the participating practitioners is as follows:
- Sebastian Schwarz of METIS from Germany
- Paloma Carrasco Garcia of B Cremades y Asociados from Spain
- Dr Nino Sievi of Lex Futura from Switzerland
- Chiara Caliandro of De Berti Jacchia Franchini Forlani from Italy
- Sam Roberts of Cooke, Young & Keidan from the UK
A link to the recording of the webinar can be found here.