What are options for lawyers when courts aren’t open for trial?
When courts are closed and trials are postponed or held, moving client matters forward can be a challenge. Coming up with alternative options, if your client is open to them, can be a way to still provide a resolution by avoiding formal court proceedings.
Depending on the type of law you practice, there are a few options available.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Alternative Dispute Resolution is typically less formal, time-consuming and costly than a trial. Under a variety of methods, including meditation, collaborative law and settlement conferences, lawsuits can be resolved without needing to go to court.
Mediation or Arbitration
Under mediation, an approved mediator can help both parties come to a resolution. These parties can be represented by a lawyer, so this creates an effective way to still be able to advocate for your client and prepare. If your client or the opposing party is unwilling to compromise however, it’s likely this route won’t be beneficial.
Arbitration can provide an even more binding option, creating a decision that is often left without the ability to appeal. However, it does allow those involved to conduct thorough preparation and still have it be faster than a traditional courtroom trial.
Remote Depositions and Discovery
While a client may still want to continue on with a case or use arbitration, there are options to continue to prepare as if the case was going to trial. Remote discovery and depositions can be readily managed through technology. Court reporters can schedule depositions either through a video conference or telephone, while e-discovery vendors can remotely access and sort through data.
If your court has been closed, it’s important to check to see if deadlines have been extended. If they haven’t been, then you may need to request an extension2. For certain types of cases, such as criminal matters, courts are still working to process these as diligently as possible to avoid backlog, whereas in areas such as civil litigation non-emergent matters are likely to see a delay or hold
1. Alternatives to Court
2. Courts Are Closed and You Have a Business Dispute – What Are Your Options?
3. COVID-19: Managing Civil Litigation During Coronavirus Shutdown