Vos heralds end of physical trials in vision of online justice


Vos: physcal presence of parties often unnecessary

A leading judge has heralded the end of the traditional court hearing for commercial disputes, where lawyers for parties sit simultaneously in a physical court room, in all but exceptional cases.

Giving his vision of online justice for business disputes, Sir Geoffrey Vos,  the Chancellor of the High Court, said oral evidence was in many cases not essential and that when blockchain-based contracts were commonplace, the traditional trial would be rendered largely obsolete.

Speaking at the start of a debate on accelerating the adoption of new technology in the justice system, held by the London-based Foundation for Science and Technology, Sir Geoffrey said that in business disputes the task of lawyers was “to simplify the issues to enable them to be resolved in the most appropriate cost-effective manner”.

He continued: “We can resolve many cases and some aspects of the more complex cases without paying for partners in law firms, assistant solicitors and barristers all to sit, sometimes for hours or days on end, listening to material they can pick up online in far less time.”

With internet-based facilities, such as telepresence, it was not necessary in most cases to be physically present at a hearing or trial. “A real-time hearing whether electronic or in person could be convened only in the cases where it was truly necessary.”

He added: “Preliminary issues could be resolved by online argument… and a judicial determination occurring without costly court attendances by the parties and by lawyers.

“Even evidence could be given in writing online or remotely by Skype.”

If judges were more active in asking questions, directing evidence and so on, many issues could be resolved without trials, the judge said.

“We are probably too hidebound by our procedural rules and our long-established practices.

“Greater flexibility and imagination could cut through the most difficult questions and mean that oral evidence at a synchronous hearing could become the exception rather than the rule.”

In future, he anticipated demand for traditional trials would fall further: “It is very unlikely I think that, once smart contracts and [blockchain technology] become ubiquitous in financial services, banking, insurance, intellectual property, employment, and almost every other legal field imaginable, the parties to a dispute over these engagements will want it resolved by a trial in a traditional court room with everyone flying in from round the world to be present in the same space and time.”

His reservations about digital solutions extended to both the cost to business litigants of technology necessary in the largest cases, and maintaining access to justice so “the use of technology does not exclude the vulnerable or the less wealthy”.

Tags:




Leave a Comment

By clicking Submit you consent to Legal Futures storing your personal data and confirm you have read our Privacy Policy and section 5 of our Terms & Conditions which deals with user-generated content. All comments will be moderated before posting.

Required fields are marked *
Email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Reports

Our latest special report, produced in association with Temple Legal Protection, looks at the role of after-the-event (ATE) insurance in commercial litigation post-LASPO. We are at a time when insurers, solicitors, clients and litigation funders work ever more closely to create funding packages that work for all of them, with conditional fee and even damages-based agreements now part of many law firms’ armoury.

Blog

13 November 2019

The October PII renewal: Why the market changed

Since the abolition of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, the October professional indemnity insurance renewal season has always been a challenge, but this year most law firms saw their premiums go up.

Read More

Loading animation