Notes from a Remote Trial

In the latest remote hearing XBundle supported, the judge said “I would like to express my appreciation on behalf of everyone for everyone at XBundle for the sterling service they have done. It has made all of our tasks a lot easier in what otherwise might have been quite a challenging trial process. So yes, thank you very much.”

 

This case was a 10-day Manchester BPC, Business List (ChD) trial that was ordered as a remote hearing.

 

We were instructed prior to the PTR to provide the creation of the electronic bundles, the hearing services (ordered as Skype for Business), electronic bundle display at trial and live transcripts. We also had printed and delivered 11 hard copy bundle sets, which mirrored the electronic bundle.

 

What we did:

 

  • A dry run hearing with the Judge, parties, experts, live transcripts and translator in the week before the trial.
  • The set-up, running, monitoring and recording of the proceedings via Skype for Business (SfB) for the primary hearing with Teams and dial-in numbers as a back-up.
  • Electronic bundle display over a Zoom webinar using XBundle::View with side-by-side page display and remote page turn.
  • Live transcripts with same day transcript at end of each day (on a fixed daily price with unlimited connections).
  • Hosting of the electronic bundle set in our cloud environment with daily updates and inserts.
  • Testing with every party their set-up, connections and log-ins to ensure smooth running from day 1.

 

What worked well:

 

  • SfB held up very well. We had between 45 to 73 people on the call at any one time over the course of the hearing. We did not need to fall back to Teams or the dial-in number. The Judge was though happy for Teams to be used if necessary.
  • The court and parties really appreciated the ability, on the electronic bundle display, to see two documents side by side and with remote page turn which helped the pace of the hearing.
  • Live transcripts were useful but perhaps underused. Having the stenographer and editor working through the hearing though did lead to quick delivery of the end-of-day clean version which was delivered as a single page and 4-to-a-page versions between 30 minutes and 90 minutes from the end of each day’s hearing. End-of-the-day transcripts would have worked just as well in this instance.
  • The parties’ device set up was typically on their main screen the SfB window and optionally, as split screen, the desktop version of WhatsApp for group chat with their respective teams. On the second screen, which was recommended as a 24-inch HD screen, the remote electronic bundle. Live transcripts were mostly viewed on a tablet. iPads and Android tablets performed equally well for live transcripts.
  • We opened up the Skype call, live transcripts and webinar an hour before the start of each day so the parties could get logged in, set up and tested before the Judge came online.

 

Things we noted:

 

  • SfB, as old though stable technology, does have a limitation in that only 5 video cards can be pinned for display at any one time (each user must pin their own cards).
  • Apple Mac devices have limitations in using SfB, so until SfB is no longer supported and Teams is its full replacement (likely February 2021) then avoid using a Mac device for SfB.
  • An obvious point but let the other person finish talking and don’t talk over someone because neither of you will be heard.
  • It is not necessary to use hard copy bundles as well as electronic ones. Use of hard copy bundles caused at times call interference as bundles were moved and pages were turned, when everyone else was already looking at the electronic bundle page displayed, at the page called out.
  • Each individual’s internet connection is critical as to how well they are heard and not by the number of people on the call. Local factors do affect the connection speed – we had thunderstorms, building works and people moving to different rooms on different days throughout the hearing. This affected being able to clearly hear what they were saying as their own internet struggled.
  • It is acceptable to sit down when speaking and avoid the need to think that need to stand up. Moving in and out from the mic makes it very hard for the stenographer to pick up what is being said.

 

Take-aways:

 

  • Preparation, preparation, preparation.
  • Skype for Business works well.
  • Ensure everyone who is a speaking participant has decent internet. Connecting via wi-fi should be avoided – get a cable and connect directly from your router to your PC/laptop. As WFH and remote hearings will be with us in some shape or form for a long time to come then think about upgrading/improving your home wi-fi if it is currently a bit flaky.
  • We set up and ran the hearing as the host so recorded the proceedings (held to the order of the court), but if the court is setting up the SfB call, as host, then make sure a team member is added as a presenter so that you can mute/unmute presenters or add/remove people as presenters if the Judge’s clerk drops out.
  • Keep handy all the joining details for the hearing.
  • KISS – there is no need for over complicated set-ups or (expensive) add-ons because they will not improve the hearing, only improving your internet will do that. Stick with what you are familiar – there will be enough going on in preparation for the hearing and on the hearing itself without having to worry about using new technology.

 

Please contact us today to find out how we can assist you with any upcoming remote hearings.