A multi-party commercial trial relating to over $500m could be heard entirely online and streamed on YouTube as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.

Magic circle firm Linklaters said today it is representing a financial institution in a ‘substantial multi-party litigation’ which was originally scheduled to last seven days in London’s commercial court. ‘Numerous’ factual and foreign law expert witnesses were due to be called before travel restrictions were imposed.

The case will now be heard remotely, with preparations being made to allow barristers, solicitors and the judge to work from home. According to Linklaters, Mr Justice Teare ‘gave short shrift to the argument that there would likely be insurmountable logistical and technical difficulties’ and said the court must adopt an ‘optimistic, rather than a pessimistic, attitude’.

Teare J acknowledged the possibility that technical issues may arise, and that counsel may contract the virus and be unable to appear for a number of days. Nonetheless, he said that a remote hearing should be arranged, and that these risks should be addressed if and when they materialise.

Parties have agreed to set up a ‘virtual court room’ in the form of a video conference in which participants can see and hear each other. They are also organising ‘virtual Post-it notes’ and ‘virtual break-out rooms’ to allow legal teams and clients to discuss the trial as it proceeds.

The trial will be recorded and streamed, potentially via YouTube, so that journalists and members of the public can follow the proceedings.

Linklaters said it remains to be decided whether Teare J will be present in the court building or elsewhere, and whether counsel and solicitors on each team will be present in the court building, or together in conference rooms, or individually from their homes. However, it said testing of the technology had so far proved successful. 


*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.