PI solicitors keen to maintain some remote hearings post-Covid

Braithwaite: Wind of change

Personal injury (PI) litigation has become more efficient since the onset of Covid-19 and solicitors are keen to move to ‘remote by default’ for some activities, a survey has found.

Some 52% of the 179 solicitors polled said that video-link technology and best practice guidelines for mutual cooperation have made the process more efficient in recent months.

Of the rest, 29% said it has remained the same, while 19% believed the process was now less efficient.

The latest survey by Exchange Chambers and brain injury rehabilitation centre Calvert Reconnections found that the vast majority (85%) of PI solicitors said that – irrespective of Covid-19 – the default position in future should be that case management conferences should take place remotely; 60% said the same for low-value trials and 58% for joint settlement meetings.

But a majority preferred the status quo for mediations (62%) and in particular high-value trials (97%).

In other findings, 63% of solicitors reported that the exchange of information between barristers and solicitors was too paperwork heavy, while only 20% said they would prefer barristers to provide their advice/opinion verbally via video-link – and confirm it by signing the attendance note – rather than in writing.

A slim majority (54%) said they were not satisfied with the standard and variety of rehabilitation services available in the UK.

Bill Braithwaite QC, head of Exchange Chambers, said: “A wind of change is blowing through the personal injury sector. Personally, I hope it gets a lot stronger.

“Traditionally, we have approached too many areas of our work in an old-fashioned, inefficient way.

“Joint settlement meetings are just one example. Over the last few months, we have undertaken hundreds of settlement meetings within chambers by video. They work. Yes, they are different from meetings in person but for negotiation it is usually enough simply to talk.

“I’m also encouraged by the move towards remote case management conferences. They are quicker, simpler, cheaper and at least as efficient.”

But Mr Braithwaite was disappointed by the reluctance to embrace remote mediations, which he claimed showed the “entrenched views” of the profession.

He said: “Mediation on video is straightforward and effective and can be managed in just the same way as it can in person.”

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