You will have probably received emails from the CEO of every business you have ever given your email address by now. Many of those emails give health advice and tell you not to bulk buy at the supermarket. We are keeping it simple.
The courts are adapting to deal minimise the risk of transmission of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Family and civil courts have the edge as they are not bound by quite the same rules as the criminal courts and they do not have to contend with prisons and police stations as often.
The short version, and the reason for user contacting you, is that there are as many platforms for virtual hearings and conferences as there are CEO emails. BT Meet Me, Zoom, Skype For Business (aka Microsoft Team), Google Meet, and countless others.
What you need to know about these services is that you, as a solicitor, do not need to buy licences for them. These are “host pays” services. We have become aware of firms being sold licences under threat of not being ready for virtual courts.
Keep your computers up-to-date. Make sure your internet connection works. Make sure you have access to CJSM, CCDCS, Caselines etc (as may apply to your practice area).
When the new legislation is passed to allow criminal courts to become truly online, it will include the ability to connect to the previously restricted videolinks to prisons (at least for hearings and, hopefully, for pre-booked conferences).
It may be tempting to panic. We would suggest that you do not. These technologies are designed to be free to participants and to be simple to use. You get an email with a link and you click on the link. That opens a browser window. Accept access to your mic and camera and you are ready to go.
For family lawyers, it seems to be the case that audio hearings (or conference calls as they actually are) are going to use the BT Meet Me platform. That’s a case of joining a conference call as you will have done before. For video hearings, HMCTS is using Skype For Business (aka Microsoft Teams). Again, you get a link. You click it. You’re in.
Obviously keep up-to-date with the missives of the senior judiciary in your practice area and, if in doubt, give us a call and we will try to assist you.
We are a chambers used to using video conferencing for hearings, professional and lay client conferences, and internal meetings/training. These changes are not a big move for us. We are happy to help out if you are struggling.
We would be grateful, in return, if you could make use of conferences via calls and other means. We have found that most lay clients are keen to be able to see their lawyers from home – as they can with GPs these days.
We have the facility to run these meetings. You just need a laptop/tablet/phone and a bit of reception/wifi. That’s all your lay client needs too.
We care about not risking contagion where it can be avoided. We will have face-to-face conferences but this new way of working is the future so far as we can tell.
Don’t be worried. Or at least, not about how you deal with us. We are ready and will help you to be.
– The Executive Board and Clerking Team, Central Chambers
23rd March 2020