Virtual Arbitrations – Trials

man swearing at a virtual arbitration - trial
Our State has an access to justice problem since the Pandemic. Courts closed between mid-March 2020, and July 2020 for non-emergency matters. Going forward, there are concerns that our courts cannot accommodate jurors safely with social distancing requirements. Therefore, until we have a reliable vaccine, litigants may have trouble getting a trial by jury.

The attorneys of DILLER LAW have been working straight through and are finding solutions to ensure our client’s access to justice. We now live in a more virtual world and Attorney Shaun DeSantis is at the forefront in innovating ways to help our clients get justice. Shaun may be the only Massachusetts attorney to handle two (2) arbitration trials by Zoom.

Arbitration is an alternative to a courtroom trial by jury, where a judge is chosen by the parties to preside over the trial and decide all issues in dispute.

We asked Shaun to share insight into his recent experiences.

Q: How did the first virtual arbitration go?

A: We received a six-figure award for our client, who was very happy to get a quick and fair result.

Q: Do you believe virtual trials/arbitrations are temporary?

A: “Even if it’s temporary, what’s reassuring is that we continue to close cases remotely for our clients. If this becomes the future of law, learning to use technology to deliver justice and to maximize results for our clients will make us a thought leader and give our clients an advantage.”

Q: What has been the toughest part?

A: “There are of course technical limitations. For example, things may freeze up at the wrong time and you can’t just slide stuff across the table to the witness or arbitrator anymore. A virtual hearing requires more foresight and preparation. You have to have everything at your digital fingertips and be flexible.”

Q: How long do these virtual arbitration trials run?

A: “We schedule a block of time. The trial length varies depending upon how many things are in dispute and how many witnesses are called live. Usually, we book in either half-day or full-day blocks. The two virtual arbitrations we had both went longer than expected. As we get more practice with the technology and the process, we’ll get a better handle on the timing.”

Q: What types of cases work best for a virtual arbitration?

A: “Any case that is right for an in-person arbitration works in the virtual world. We were able to have live expert witnesses testify at both virtual arbitrations.”

Q: What advice would you give to other attorneys on the topic of virtual arbitration?

A: “You don’t want to spend time addressing tech issues or looking for documentation. Prepare beforehand. It’s like trying to spin plates in both hands while also trying to direct an examination. You have to focus on your examination, what you’re saying, and your presentation in the camera. Unless you have extra staff, you’re also running the AV show from behind the screens. It can get a little bit hairy unless you’re prepared.”

Q: What would you tell a client about virtual arbitration?

A: “If a case is right for arbitration, there’s no need to delay it until it can be held in person. There is no disadvantage to moving forward with remote arbitration. It is capable of resolving your case in an efficient and amicable fashion. We work to ensure that there are not any further delays in justice as a result of stay at home orders or other uncertainties.”

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