Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Courts Embrace Technology Ahead Of Firms: Court Proceedings

Written by Kayal Manamohan

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We have previously discussed how freelance lawyers are on the rise and can benefit from the growth of technology around us. There is however a step we must take before then – that is, for the legal industry to embrace digital culture and take advantage of it. An unexpected body has taken the lead in this area. Our courts which are generally seen as traditional and set in their ways, are carving out a path for the rest of the legal industry to follow.

Telephone and Video Conferencing

In New South Wales alone the network of sites which enable video conferencing is around 250. This includes:

  • Courtrooms
  • Correctional Centres
  • Juvenile Justice Detention Centres
  • Legal Aid Offices
  • Police Stations
  • Public Defenders’ Offices
  • Offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions and Community Relations Commission

All of the above sites are able to connect to courtrooms during proceedings. This technology is generally used for bail hearings while clients are in custody.

Aside from cases involving those in custody, video conferencing is also useful to connect to a interstate or overseas witness. For civil cases this may come with a cost, and the request to use external video conferencing needs to be approved by a judicial officer. Different courts may charge varying fees.

If video conferencing is not available, you may place a request for a witness to appear via telephone instead. A judicial officer must approve this as well – simply apply directly to the court or tribunal hearing your case.

Video Conferencing Used for Remote Witnesses

Apart from the convenience that video conferencing provides, it also has an important role to play with vulnerable witnesses. More specifically, the following types of witnesses may require the services of a remote witness video facility:

  • Children
  • People with cognitive impairment
  • Sexual offence witnesses

The above witnesses may give evidence from a place outside of the courtroom using video conferencing (or other technology). A support person can stay in the room with the witness. The location of the remote room is confidential for the safety of the those involved. Measures are taken so although the defendant can see the witness, the witness cannot see the defendant.

These services comfort witnesses during proceedings and encourages future witnesses to come forward under the protections the court provides.

Progress in Legal Firms to Date

Although legal firms have not yet embraced technology to the extent the courts have, there have been steps towards it such as performing client interviews over video conference. This is a particularly useful tool for marketplace lawyers that undertake most of their work online. This is not yet widespread practice, but it sure is a significant step.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series about how courts are leading the way in technology-use in the legal industry.

Have more questions? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800 529 728 to learn more about customising legal documents and obtaining a fixed-fee quote from Australia’s largest legal marketplace.

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