Experts endorse remote and hybrid adjudication hearings

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Legal experts in Asia point out that, where technology allows, remote hearings offer great opportunities to save time, money and carbon in international adjudication.

Digital transition is changing industry norms fast. Nowhere is that more apparent than in adjudication, which has found remote hearings to be effective, efficient and sustainable.

Legal experts speaking at an international conference in Asia have highlighted the key benefits to this, while also noting there were still some challenges along the way.

Gracious Timothy Dunna, a legal advisor with the Indian Ministry of Defence, highlighted one of the challenges was technological limitations, though he emphasised that hybrid hearings were here to stay.

Dunna told the international audience, “Remote hearings are not always preferable because in my experience, the technology has not always been sufficient to do that well. However, I think hybrid hearings are likely to be the future and I’m excited to see how that evolves over time.”

Xin Zhang, counsel with the ICC, noted that this had been given impetus throughout the pandemic, saying “We transitioned to entirely remote hearings where parties are in different jurisdictions and in that regard, Covid has been a game changer.”

Kelvin Aw, a partner with global legal firm CMS, pointed out one cultural division that needs to be properly managed, saying “The more experienced members of the bar are probably more comfortable with in-person hearings and paper documents, while the younger generation is likely to feel more comfortable with digital working.”

Lynette Chew, also a partner with CMS, then set out a number of the key benefits to remote and hybrid adjudications for those involved.

“Remote hearings can work well and save money. They can be more sustainable because we need fewer hardcopies on paper and it avoids the need for flights along with other costs involved in getting people to the same location. We also see people take part from their own homes in comfort, so it is fairly effective both cost-wise and time-wise.”

Those benefits and the need to keep people deployed on projects rather than travelling to hearings, will likely see no rapid return to the pre-Covid presumptions of in-person hearings.

The experts came together on the first day of the FIDIC Asia Contract Users Conference on 19 May 2022.