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Electronic trials – “legal help” for lawyers?

While we provide legal help for many people, sometimes lawyers need a little assistance themselves as times rapidly change.

Appearing in a recent BC Courthouse Libraries blog post, In a recent paper written for Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia CLEBC, Tracy Ayling an Independent Litigation Support Consultant based in Vancouver has written a short short introduction to electronic trials in BC – the situation today and what things will look like in the near future.

Her research and subsequent report:

  • Focuses on the current electronic trial situation in BC
  • Provides her recommendations for key rules for running a successful electronic trial
  • Showcases a successful electronic trial in Alberta
  • Provides a brief discussion on the emerging trends in evidence management platforms and trial impacts
  • Notes some of the many key benefits to electronic trials

A list of references is provided at the end of the report.

For lawyers, Ayling notes, it makes a lot of sense to move to an electronic trial format – not only is lugging around boxes of paper documents inefficient, adopting an electronic standard will help lawyers remain competitive as economic conditions continue challenge all professions, including lawyers, to reduce costs:

To stay mired in the past of lugging boxes and boxes of paper to and from court is simply inefficient, and too costly to continue on this track. Case sizes, new multi-media avenues, and levels of complexity have grown exponentially in the past decades and will continue to grow, and  court rooms were not designed to accommodate this trend. Additionally, in order for firms to remain competitive in this new age and difficult economic times, they will need to be even more efficient, costeffective, and be better able to adapt to the changing times.

Ayling points out that one challenge of moving to an electronic trial format is the cost of the transition, not only for law firms, but also for the courts themselves. Wiring and other provisioning has to be planned and paid for, and then successfully deployed – a complex state of affairs with no apparent easy and quick method of execution.

There is also no one set standard or convention for electronic trials – different courts will have different technological abilities, which is another level of complexity:

In general, the current process is that if you do want an electronic trial you will need to bring in all of your own technical gear and set-up the courtroom accordingly. Monitors are sometimes available for the judge, but  because the court doesn’t officially supply the bench or the witness stand there is no guarantee that the tools will be available for your trial. Therefore, normally the parties work out an agreement as to how that supply and cost-sharing arrangement will work.

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