As a result of COVID-19 and the strict social distancing laws, the Courts have had to change and modernise many of their procedures.
Some of the changes the Courts have made include:
- Electronic filing of some Court Documents;
- Posting originals of Documents for filing;
- Hearings being conducted over the telephone or by video;
- Allowing Documents to be served via email; and
- Enabling Restraining Order Applications to be lodged online.
With technology being relied upon more throughout this pandemic, as people limit their face to face contact, it seems unlikely that the Court system will return to a paper-based system, once the restrictions are lifted.
This changes were well overdue and will hopefully result in a stronger, more modern legal system, post the pandemic.
In the future, we may see more Hearings conducted by video link and telephone and evidence being provided through email or projection, with the need for hard copy documents being significantly reduced.
It is not only the Courts which have had to adapt and improve. Legal practitioners have also had to change their practices.
Some of these changes include:
- Attending Mediation Conferences through video or web conferencing;
- Witnessing the signing of documents through video conference; and
- Conducting initial consultations through telephone or video conference, which will continue to be beneficial to people in regional areas.
These changes have allowed many practitioners to work from home and to provide the service sought by their clients. The pandemic may have paved the way for a more flexible work environment for lawyers, with the possibility of working from home now a reality.
The pandemic has led to a shift in the legal system, with the Courts recognising that many of their methods were outdated. It has increased trust in the use of technology in Courtrooms and led to the realisation that the Court is able to deliver more efficient service to those involved in Court proceedings.
There are cases where the Court has had to delay a hearing, as it was not possible to conduct some Trials with cross-examination through video conference. However, once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, it will be interesting to see how the Court system works to reduce the backlog and continue the shift towards a modern legal system.