The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the legal community to re-evaluate the way in which negotiations and hearings are typically conducted. Instead of doing things primarily in person, alternatives which do not require people to be in the same physical space are now being pursued.

As the courts are currently only hearing urgent matters, we launched an Estates Arbitration and Litigation Management (“EALM“) initiative last week in an effort to move estate matters forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through arbitration, the EALM initiative addresses procedural (and certain substantial) issues for which the court’s direction would normally be sought. The arbitrations are conducted by senior members of the Estates Bar and take place via teleconference or video conference. These measures have already been successfully employed by the Family Law Bar.

In their own efforts to move matters forward, an entire trial was conducted over Skype in the United Kingdom. The trial revolved around whether a stroke victim in his 70s should continue to receive tube feeding and hydration. The platform allowed participants to see and hear each other and for the trial to be recorded. The trial occurred over three days and consisted of multiple participants, including a judge, lawyers, 11 witnesses, three experts and two journalists.

While virtual trials may not happen anytime soon in Canada, after the success of the Skype trial in the United Kingdom, perhaps virtual trials are something we can expect in the near future. Virtual mediations and arbitrations are a welcomed first step.

Thanks for reading and be safe.

Suzana Popovic-Montag and Celine Dookie