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Lexis+ AI
Hannah Gannagé-Stewart

Deputy Editor, Solicitors Journal

Big Law Summit: Remote hearings are here to stay

Big Law Summit: Remote hearings are here to stay


James Pickering QC opens Big Law Summit with predictions for the future

Enterprise Chambers’ James Pickering QC has told the profession that remote hearings will be a permanent feature of the judicial system long after covid-19 has faded from the headlines.

Opening the three-day Big Law Summit yesterday morning, Pickering said: “While coronavirus has been the catalyst, where we are now with technology – it’s not just an answer to coronavirus – it’s the answer to our future needs as well”.

Recalling his first remote hearing on 25th March, just two days after the prime minister announced the national lockdown, Pickering said the meeting by skype was “successful”.

He said he had to answer various questions from participants, ranging from whether they would be expected to wear wigs and gowns to whether the hearing would be recorded or if journalists could attend. The answer to the latter two, being “yes”, as is the case with physical hearings.

“This isn’t all about coronavirus. This technology is there, we’ve actually grasped the nettle now”, he said. “And the position will be, I’m certain, that the courts that didn’t have the technology back in March, which don’t have it now, they will have it even post-coronavirus.”

He admitted that while the chancery division had been quick to adapt to remote hearings, and even remote trials, other courts had found it more difficult to do so. This, he argued, was not due to a lack of will to function remotely but because not all courts had adequate technology.

“The judiciary in the county court and in tribunals and other courts are just as progressive in my view, but they haven’t or didn’t have the infrastructure or technology at the time.”

While Pickering has conducted cross-examinations remotely during lockdown, he expected physical trials to return, on the whole, after the pandemic. However, he said hearings were likely to remain remote in most cases. Meanwhile, he said: “There are hybrid hearings taking place literally at the moment”.

He concluded: “It seems to me that, in the future, most trials probably will go back to being physical trials, real life trails in a real life court but it seems to me that most other hearings – and most hearings do not involve cross-examination – will not be in real life physical courts”.

Big Law Summit is taking place for the first time this week. The three-day virtual conference includes 28 speakers and 25 workshops. For access to the content archive and remaining sessions, visit:

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