What is a Hybrid Court Room and how can you Prepare?

 

As lockdown lifts, courts are moving from becoming fully remote to a hybrid system.

As lockdown lifts, courts are moving from becoming fully remote to a hybrid system. This means that although some participants will connect via video, others will be present in the courtroom. It may be that the entire proceeding takes place under hybrid conditions, or that only parts of the proceedings such as witness statements and other evidence may be suited to a hybrid procedure. The benefit is that professionals, as well as those who are short on time or money, are able to fit court appearances around their everyday lives with greater ease. Although hybrid hearings often require more technical support, there are services available that provide everything necessary to ensure smooth proceedings.

Of course, technical support is only one piece of the puzzle. There are plenty of ways you can prepare yourself for your court appearance that will prevent any unnecessary prolonging of the procedure; we’ve compiled our best tips.

 

10 TIPS FOR HYBRID COURTS

1. BE PREPARED FOR A CHANGE IN CIRCUMSTANCES.

It may be that a court date is changed, or even that you’re suddenly required to appear in person. It’s best to make sure that whatever the circumstances end up being, you’re able to be where you’re needed and present the same information you would otherwise have.

 

2. CHECK YOU HAVE ACCESS TO THE REQUIRED PLATFORMS.

It may be Zoom, Skype for Business, Microsoft teams, or Cloud Video Platform. It’s important to ensure that you have access to all the necessary technology, as it’s not a given that the court will be willing to reschedule if you can’t attend. If you have concerns about being able to navigate the technology, there are services that can provide you with advice and extra resources.

 

3. DO A TEST RUN.

There are often technical issues when appearing in court remotely. Dummy runs are sometimes arranged by secretaries, but if not, reach out to the other party to arrange one yourself. This can help identify issues with audio and visuals, as well as any problems you may encounter when trying to connect. It’s best to have these problems resolved before the actual court date, so that on the day you can focus on the proceedings.

 

4. DRESS APPROPRIATELY.

Just because you are at home, it doesn’t mean that you can dress so! You may be required to communicate directly with the Judge, and you should be dressed in a way that is suitable. Of course, the way you dress also has an impact on the way you conduct yourself, so dressing appropriately will also help you stay in the correct mindset.

 

5. KNOW HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH COUNSEL.

Some counsel prefer to use Whatsapp, others iMessage, others simply prefer email. It’s essential to be able to communicate in case you encounter technical issues or need to ask a question privately, so this is something to be aware of in advance.

 

6. SET UP SOMEWHERE QUIET.

Distractions are sometimes unavoidable in hybrid courts. Letting members of your household know what you’re doing, setting up somewhere out of the way, and keeping doors and windows shut, gives you the best chance of getting through proceedings without issue. If you have headphones with a microphone, they can also help eliminate external noise on the call.

 

7. KNOW THE MUTE CONTROLS.

Everyone in court, including the Judge, can hear when you speak on a video call. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the mute function on the given platform – you should be muted unless you are actively speaking to the court to give evidence or advocate.

 

8. DON’T COMMENT ON MEMBERS OF THE PARTY.

As mentioned above, everyone on the call can hear your comments. The Judge has the ability to mute and unmute any party, as hosts of the call – the last thing you want is to make a comment and realise the Judge has unmuted you. It’s best to just keep your thoughts to yourself and air them once the call has ended.

 

9. KEEP YOUR VIDEO OFF.

Unless you are counsel, it’s advised to keep your video off until instructed otherwise. It allows for the call to run more smoothly, as well as preventing any members of the party from becoming distracted by something on camera. If a member of counsel is distracted by their client’s reactions, it may knock them off course and affect the proceedings. This is a possibility even when muted, so it’s best that you disable all appearance on the call.

 

10. PATIENCE.

Many of the participants on the call will be new to the idea of a hybrid court, and each proceeding has an issue of some kind. Working with the other members of the party is crucial to make sure that everything can go ahead as planned.

 

hybrid court room infographic

With the tips above, you should be in an optimal position to tackle a hybrid court appearance. It can be an intimidating experience, but with the preparation we’ve suggested you’ll be able to handle all of it.
If at any stage you feel like you need extra help with technology or connection issues, Eyenetwork has a range of services available that can help take off some of the pressure.

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