COVID-19 and the New Legal Norm

Keith Wailoo is a professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University. He has written widely about health policy. Pandemics have ravaged human society for centuries. According to Professor Wailoo, the COVID-19 pandemic will transform social behavior, reshape the economy and “without question” create a new norm involving remote work and communication.

This new norm has and will drastically change the legal landscape. Many courts and administrative tribunals have embraced remote technology utilizing it as an alternative to conferences, arguments, hearings and in some cases, even trials. Many lawyers utilize remote technology for client meetings, conferences, mediations, discovery, depositions and other pretrial proceedings.

Indeed, while many may be tempted to return to in person proceedings, there are numerous reasons to conclude that Professor Wailoo is correct. Many lawyers and courts will continue to utilize remote technology.

Why? The cost savings to all involved are enormous. This is especially true for those individuals and small businesses embroiled in a lawsuit. Balancing the cost scales creates greater access to justice. Attorneys may also be more productive. Traveling in many circumstances is difficult and distracting. Remote proceedings allow others to view the proceedings, attend as potential witnesses and imbue the proceedings with a certain accountability, transparency and legitimacy. Litigants can participate in all aspects of their cases. They no longer need to be concerned about what happens behind closed doors.

Of course, in person proceedings will and should return in some cases to ensure just results and to protect individual rights. Criminal cases are the obvious example. While the courts have experimented with remote trials, we expect that they too will return to being in person. Selecting jurors, examining witnesses, presenting evidence and arguing the case in person best serves the aims of justice.

Unfortunately, until a new norm is established, the courts and the public will suffer from inordinate delay and an ever-increasing backlog of cases. Justice delayed is justice denied. Given this, it also seems likely that arbitrations and mediations will surge. There are obvious cost savings, the parties get their say, and resolutions are likely. Furthermore, cases get disposed of much quicker.

Our attorneys have vast legal experience and are willing and capable of serving as arbitrators and mediators. Retired Judge Lovecchio is an obvious choice to preside over any type of mediation or arbitration. We also have an up-to-date technological infrastructure that will permit remote mediations and arbitrations.