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Pandemic’s impact could make court proceedings more efficient

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has restricted daily life and work in numerous ways, might just be the catalyst to streamline court proceedings.
Hammerco
A great number of court cases could move online in the future. (Image: iStock)

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has restricted daily life and work in numerous ways, might just be the catalyst to streamline court proceedings, and open up greater access to a wider variety of legal services—especially for those living in remote communities.

That’s the view of lawyer Anthony Eden, an Associate at Hammerco Lawyers in Vancouver.

“At first, when the pandemic hit early in the year, working through the courts was very difficult,” Eden says. “Even though some law firms were moving towards doing work remotely, the courts were lagging behind and not prepared to operate remotely.”

But after an initial adjustment period, and the need for public health protection, the situation turned around.

“We were able to use tools, such as conducting video meetings on Zoom. Then the courts allowed remote applications and hearings by teleconferencing,” Eden adds.

“Now, we are using Microsoft Teams, another software application for group video chats.”

Since the provincial courts are in charge of their own processes, court officials were able to issue updated directives to allow the changes, making it easier for counsel to appear in court, when they couldn’t be physically present.

While in-person court appearances will likely still be required for some legal proceedings - trials, for example - Eden says the future for a much greater number of other cases could well move online.

“The overall purpose of all of this was initially to help curb the transmission of COVID-19, but I think it’s going to have another effect in the future by saving a lot of time and money,” Eden says.

“It will also allow claimants and defendants in remote parts of the province to access lawyers and law firms far beyond their own community. Our goal at Hammerco is to provide powerful legal solutions to clients we believe in and this improved access is monumental for all British Columbians. 

“The changes have opened a lot of peoples’ eyes, and hopefully the decision-makers in our court system will view the possibilities that not everyone needs to be physically present in court,” Eden says. “There had been no plan to change the process in the courts. But in a few short months, there’s been a shift to electronic appearances. And the longer the impact of the pandemic continues, the more likely there will be more changes.”

For more information about attaining legal assistance remotely, and how some aspects of the court system now operate, visit hammerco.net/our-firm/anthony-eden.