Clients to benefit from digitisation of litigation

Thursday March 22, 2018

Clients to benefit from digitisation of litigation

Victoria's legal profession has embraced digitisation, improving efficiency and cutting clients’ costs.  Hicks Oakley Chessell Williams' litigation team, having recently completed an electronic Supreme Court trial, is no exception. 

Matthew Hicks, Principal and Law Institute of Victoria Accredited Specialist - Commercial Litigation, said because the matter was a large one, a third party provider was engaged to run the e-trial.

The provider created an electronic court book, which contained the more than 1,000 documents required during the trial. The provider also set up the court room to enable material such as evidence to be displayed electronically during the trial.

Benefits of an e-trial

Matthew said the benefits of an electronic trial were numerous.

"Hard copies of documents are not required during an electronic trial," he said. "This makes preparing for a trial easier.  Staff spend less time photocopying and handling documents. "

Matthew said document management was much more efficient during an e-trial than it was ordinarily.

"Electronic court books can be searched, so finding a relevant document during a trial is easy," he said. "Gone are the days of trawling through numerous folders to find one document."

Matthew said these efficiencies translated into lower costs for clients, however it is important for arrangements for electronic trials to be made early in the course of a proceeding. It can be difficult to change from a paper based trial to an electronic trial mid way through a proceeding.

Courts and technology

The days of litigation consuming vast quantities of paper are almost a thing of the past, with Victorian courts embracing digitisation.  

Traditionally hard copies of documents were filed at court counters, served on opponents, made available to the other side during the discovery process and tendered in evidence. Increasingly filing is done online and documents can be served via email.  Solicitors are also generally able to communicate with courts via email.

Courts use of technology

  • The Victorian County Court recently introduced an app to assist jurors in personal injury cases better understand the anatomical structure of the human body. The app features a male and female model and more than 8,200 3D anatomical structures.
  • The Federal Court lists an e-courtroom among its case management tools. This is a "virtual courtroom" which "avoids the need for an in-person appearance (in appropriate applications, being especially useful for the resolution of interlocutory disputes.)" Hicks Oakley Chessell Williams has had experience in using the e-courtroom.

  • A Victorian Supreme Court practice note on the use of technology in litigation notes that "dealings in hard copy are to be the exception rather than the rule in all aspects of civil litigation in the Court". It also states "parties should be prepared to address the Court on the use of technology at an early stage of a proceeding."