Over the last two years, the world has been forced to alter the way they work and live. Law firms experienced a dramatic shift to virtual litigation that accelerated the industry’s digital transformation by years. But, how did virtual litigation perform compared to the in-person experience that has dominated the field until now?
A recent study shows that virtual litigation was met with positive feedback for many different types of lawsuits, with two thirds of respondents saying that they had a positive experience with virtual worker’s compensation hearings and mediations, and 54% of clients saying that virtual depositions were positive.
Pros and cons of virtual litigations
While many online behaviors from the pandemic will stick with us, others will revert back to in-person activity. The future of virtual litigations is uncertain. While there are some major benefits, there are also elements that are less satisfactory to participants.
- Convenience - When participants can dial in virtually, it’s much easier to schedule a time and ensure that everyone is able to join, removing costly and frustrating delays.
- Cost reduction - For legal teams, reduced travel time means more time being productive/able to serve a variety of clients.
- Recording - Virtual litigations can easily be recorded and stored for later use.
- Decreased communication - In-person litigations provide a more personal connection with involved parties, which can be important under certain circumstances.
- Easier sharing and conferring - Some parties may feel more comfortable relaying personal information in person than over online chat or virtual meeting rooms.
- Technological issues - While technology can be make things more convenient, spotty wifi or a disruption in service on conferencing platforms can pose issues when trying to conduct virtual litigations.
When comparing the pros and cons listed above, it’s easy to see why there is such a swing in positive sentiment for different types of virtual litigation. However, some legal proceedings, such as trials with multiple defendants and lawyers have been deemed too complex for a good virtual experience at this stage.
Creating the best virtual experience
For scenarios where virtual litigation pros outweigh the cons, law firms can tap new tools and technologies in order to make the experience as positive as possible for their own employees and for their clients.
For example, regular Zoom calls provide a variety of features that are valuable for open meetings and discussions, but are less helpful in a legal setting. Law firms need the right conferencing technology to ensure that the participants can’t change backgrounds or highlight pictures or other elements that might alter the outcome of the proceeding. In fact, new technology is being developed to go one step further, helping lawyers, judges and jury better read expressions of people’s faces for a more effective virtual experience.
Additionally, law firms need to consider the different actions that might need to occur virtually within a legal setting, from document signing to identity authentication. Fortunately, there are now solutions available that allow these tasks to be completed online, which help to further reduce costs and save time.
Of course, security is of the utmost importance during virtual litigation. Law firms must ensure that even when litigation is being conducted online, participants must use secure ways to communicate. For example, email is not acceptable for sharing evidence. Similarly, conferencing technology should have video encryption capabilities and needs to be set up so that no third party is able to enter a session without being invited.
Virtual litigation is here to stay, mostly
The world of litigation is extremely varied and complex. What works for one case could be detrimental to another. Our prediction is that this complexity will lead to virtual litigation becoming the norm in certain parts of the legal world (in mediations and worker’s compensation disputes, for example), while taking a back seat to in-person proceedings in other areas (such as high-profile and complicated cases that involve various parties).
However, even if law firms have returned to conducting business largely in-person, due to the ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic, it’s still important to stay up to date with technology that enables secure, virtual litigations.